In a now-deleted post published to its Facebook page last night, the union representing St. Louis police officers took aim at the RFT, socking it to us right where it hurts by sharing an article we published, thereby driving traffic to our website (curses!) while referring to our publication as "bird cage liner" (original!).
The post in question was a story about a group of small business owners in the area who had signed onto a letter supporting protesters and criticizing the police response. The effort, initiated by Eliza Coriell of the Crow's Nest, generated 45 co-signers, and was attracting even more as it blew up on social media on Monday.
But last night, the police union decided that rather than take the high road, it would put the paper on blast — as well as the businesses that signed the letter, a.k.a. "STL businesses that hate cops and sympathize with vandals."
The reaction was instant, and heated — toward the cops.
Over at the RFT, we saw literally zero increase in the usual daily hate mail. And while responses to the Facebook post have since been lost to history, on Twitter, where the hapless union cross-posted its screed, the people responding were brutal (and hilarious).
Some tried to reason patiently with the poor bastards.
Guys. They're saying "Please don't pepper spray peaceful people/journalists/bystanders on our behalf if one person breaks a window."— SecretlyStephie (@SecretlyStephie) September 27, 2017
All of those business owners would fire a barista for being rude, but you protect dudes who use racial slurs and love excessive violence.— SecretlyStephie (@SecretlyStephie) September 27, 2017
Have you thought about why people don’t like y’all? Maybe a little less tear gas and a little more community engagement?— Patrick Cahn (@SobaFett) September 27, 2017
Other messages directly targeted Jeff Roorda, the brash police spokesman who's made a national name for himself by running his mouth.
Lawd. Jeffrey, you need to lay off that Jeffco meth.— #FergusonForever (@classysportsfan) September 27, 2017
But while it's all fun and games to this birdcage liner, the whole campaign is frankly part of a larger problem in our city: The police union sucks at social media.
Just witness the city union's "me too" attack on Pi Pizzeria's Chris Sommers, which followed the St. Louis County union putting Sommers on blast after he objected to them teargassing his customers on September 15.
In a Facebook post last Thursday, a day after Sommers' response to the county police union had already gone viral, the city union claimed it had received a "firsthand account, written by a SLPOA member who was an eyewitness to the events occurring outside the Pi Pizzeria," alleging the restaurant had "harbored criminals who had assaulted police officers."
Noted the Facebook post, "It presents quite a counter-narrative to the incendiary, childish, yet elitist, anti-cop screed related by Pi Pizza-owner Chris Sommers."
Yes, it was quite the counter-narrative — albeit a patently false (and potentially libelous) one. And the officer, naturally, was not named or identified in any way that could serve to verify his account.
Yet when people began to call out the police union in the comments, someone hastily amended the post to explain that oh, no, people had read the post wrong — the officer was happy to have his name printed alongside his allegations:
"First, the officer who wrote the below quoted comment wanted us to print their name," the union snipped. "Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to leave their name off of this post. The officer is certainly welcome to chime in on this post, if he or she so chooses to do so."
To date, no such officer has emerged in the comments to identify him or herself or attest to the account.
But the union wasn't done. It further claimed it wasn't urging a boycott of Pi, oh no!
Second, the St. Louis Police Officer's Association has not called for a boycott of Pi Pizza, though we will honor the St. Louis County Police Association's boycott of the chain. We do not flatter ourselves to think that we can make or break any business, and contrary to several posts in this thread, we have never, and will never, threaten anyone's physical well being or their property.
We are a labor union for law enforcement officers, not law breakers. The idea that posting this is somehow dangerous toward Pi owner Chris Sommers is preposterous. Sommers chose to make his claims publicly, and we chose to rebut them publicly.
It's perhaps wise that the union disavowed any attempt at a boycott — you can see how all that went over. Even in a fairly conservative suburb, the restaurant did big business while a Blue Lives Matter protest fizzled.
So no one should have been surprised to see the police union this morning delete its original post calling us a "tabloid birdcage liner." And yet, go figure, then they tried again, posting our story another time with another attempt at messaging, this one aimed squarely at businesses on Coriell's list.
"For what it's worth... a list of St. Louis business owners who think the men and women of law enforcement are the problem, rather than the drug dealers, murderers, and rioters destroying our City," the post read. "We'd love to hear from St. Louis business owners who appreciate the hard work, sacrifice, and protection provided by the men and women of St. Louis-area law enforcement. Chime in on this post with your business' name."
As of 10:50 a.m., the union repost had drawn a few "haha"s, several angry faces, and absolutely zero business owners offering public support. "You're hurting your chances for a raise," noted one commenter, referencing the sales tax increase slated for city ballots this fall.
Added another, "Could you provide a list of business that support the slpoa? I'd love to never go to any of them ever again."
Still, much as we'd love to mock the union's tragic efforts at counter-narratives and messaging, we have to offer credit where it's due. This morning's updated post was a real breakthrough for the group, in that no black computers were tear-gassed, hog-tied and beaten with three-foot sticks during the police response to the provocation.
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