South Florida civil rights leaders protested Wednesday to demand discipline for a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue captain whose comments made about the Trayvon Martin case on his personal Facebook page set off a firestorm of controversy.
Demonstrators gathered at the Stephen P. Clark Center in downtown Miami to ask for formal discipline for Capt. Brian Beckmann.
John Pace, the executive director of the Federation of Black Employees, which took part in the protest, said he wants Beckmann fired.
"He's a public safety figure, I don't want him coming into my community," said Pace, a retired Miami Gardens police officer. "I'd rather let my house burn."
Greg Rollins, an executive member of the Federation of Black Employees, said Beckmann's posting was offensive.
"Those comments painted a brush across the whole black community," Rollins said.
But Rollins stopped short of calling for Beckmann's firing, saying he should be demoted or suspended and needs to apologize.
"He should not lose his job," said Rollins, for a "comment out of ignorance, he has a family."
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue has said the post, which appeared on Beckmann's Facebook page last week on the same day State Attorney Angela Corey announced that George Zimmerman would be charged with second-degree murder in the Martin shooting, is under investigation.
In it, Beckmann had disparaging words for the prosecutor, then pondered “whether our urban youths are victims of racist profiling or products of their failed, (expletive), ignorant, pathetic, welfare dependent excuses for parents, but like Mrs. Corey, we speak only the truth. They're just misunderstood little church going angels and the ghetto hoodie look doesn't have anything to do with why people wonder if they're about to get jacked by a thug,” he wrote in the post, obtained by thegrio.com. Thegrio.com is owned by NBC Universal.
Beckmann defended himself in a Facebook message to thegrio.com, writing, "I am a private citizen and have the same right to freely express an opinion on any subject that anyone else does. I choose not to embellish or alter the facts as your employer chose to do.”
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said in a statement that the comments from Beckmann, who has been with the county since 1997, “are the opinion of the individual, and does not reflect the feelings of the department as a whole."
Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Monday he has asked the fire department director to investigate if county policies have been violated, and when the investigation is done he will decide what action to take.
Prosecutors say Zimmerman shot Martin, 17, in a gated community in Sanford on Feb. 26. Zimmerman, 28, says he shot Martin in self-defense and has pleaded not guilty.
Later Wednesday, faculty and students at Florida International University will be holding a memorial service for Martin on the school's Biscayne Bay campus.
Martin's brother, Jahvaris Fulton, attends FIU and Wednesday marks the last meeting of his world religion class.