Thomas Altfather Good/Wikimedia Commons

Indianapolis police department in hot water for misusing ‘We Can’t Breathe’ hashtag

Think before you tweet, officers.


Aaron Sankin


Published Dec 9, 2014   Updated May 30, 2021, 12:50 am CDT

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department appeared to make a huge public-relations blunder last week in a tweet that used the hashtag #WeCanBreathe. That hashtag is a variant of the phrase “I can’t breathe,” the last words of Eric Garner, an African American man who was fatally strangled by New York Police Department officer Daniel Pantaleo.

After a New York grand jury elected not to indict Pantaleo last week,  the words “I can’t breathe” inspired both a protest chant and a Twitter hashtag campaign around which online activists have rallied.

In response to criticism from a community member about department behavior, Indianapolis police sent out out the following tweet, which was captured by the Indianapolis Star.

The use of the #WeCanBreathe hashtag unsurprisingly sparked a firestorm of criticism on Twitter.

The department deleted the tweet shortly after the online backlash and sent out a second, apologetic message.

“We don’t have a doctorate in Twitter,” Kendale Adams, the African American police officer who composed the tweet, told the Star. “We’re learning. That was a learning opportunity. We apologize.”

H/T RT | Photo by Thomas Altfather Good/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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*First Published: Dec 9, 2014, 4:03 pm CST