Cop suspended after ‘being caught at Proud Boys rally’
A police officer in Fresno, California, has been placed on paid administrative leave after being photographed attending a Proud Boys protest Sunday (14 March).
Rick Fitzgerald allegedly attended the demonstration organised by the far-right nationalist group which has long traded in political violence and being among Donald Trump’s most high-decibel supporters.
Fitzgerald was thought to have been spied among the crowds that crammed into the Tower District as part of the weeks-long ‘Save the Tower Theatre’ campaign.
But rather than seek to blunt the sale of the historic cinema, the Proud Boys rallied to support selling it to an allegedly anti-LGBT+ Christian congregation, the Adventure Community Church.
Twitter users identified the officer who appeared in a since-deleted YouTube live stream of the protest by former Proud Boys member Eddie Block.
Eddie is out with a group called "Sons of 76". Eddie called this man "Rick" and implied that he was a cop. Back in November, a man with matching tattoos was in Sacramento wearing Proud Boy gear. He also had "Sheepdog" name tags at that event. pic.twitter.com/PnmHSlaq4I
— Borwin (@Borwin10) March 14, 2021
Block, whose home was raided by domestic intelligence forces in connection to the Capitol riots, can be heard calling out to Fitzgerald. He, according to a Twitter user who saw the footage, referred to him as “Rick” and “implied that he was a cop”.
The users claimed that Fitzgerald could be seen at a “Stop the Steal” rally in November 2020 in Sacramento.
According to The Fresno Bee, Fitzgerald lists himself on his social media as the president of “Sons of ’76” a “local patriotic fraternity”.
Police chief, union and city officials respond to ‘troubling’ allegations against Proud Boys cop
Senior Fresno Police Department officials have since announced they have mounted an investigation into the allegations against Fitzgerald.
In a statement to The Fresno Bee newspaper, police chief Paco Balderrama said: “Although at this point these are merely allegations and the matter will be fully investigated, it is important to maintain the integrity and legitimacy of our police department.
“Any allegations of actions unbecoming of a police officer or the affiliation with any alleged criminal or hate group will always be investigated and addressed.
“Fair and impartial policing are extremely important in our society. There is no place in our police ranks for any biased, racists, or anti-Semitic views.
Balderrama did not name Fitzergald by name – the California Peace Officer Bill of Rights prohibits police from naming the officer.
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While city mayor Jerry Dyer said in a comment shared on social media Monday (15 March): “As the mayor of this city, I will not tolerate any City of Fresno employee belonging to organizations that promote views of supremacy, racism or criminal conduct.”
Similar ire was levelled by the Fresno Police Officers Association, the city’s top police union, which called the reports “troubling and are undoubted of great concern to the police department, the FPOA, and the community as a whole”.
“The FPOA fully supports the Chief in his decision to initiate a thorough and objective investigation into this matter,” FPOA president Brandon Wiemiller wrote in the statement.
“The investigation should be based on facts and evidence, free of political influences, purposed for discovering the validity to the allegations at hand.”