Miami’s police union fired back at the city’s police chief Friday, posting a picture of Art Acevedo posing with the same gesture he suspended an officer for using last week — a hand signal often associated with white power extremist groups.
The caption above the picture posted on the Miami Fraternal Order of Police Twitter page: “Do as I say not as I do.”
Acevedo, who was at a conference Friday and unable to comment, referred questions to Houston Police Chief Troy Finner, who was with him when the photo was taken. And just like the officer Acevedo suspended, the chief claimed the gesture was misinterpreted.
This one, Finner said, had Houston origins and was actually intended as a sign of support for George Floyd — whose death at the hands of a Minnesota police officer sparked Black Lives Matter protests.
Finner said the signal — formed with circles of thumbs and forefingers while raising the other three fingers on each hand — was taken a little more than three weeks after Floyd’s death and while Acevedo was chief in Houston.
“I was there that day,” said Finner. “It was a celebration of George Floyd.”
The picture, taken in June 2020, was on the track of Houston’s Jack Yates Senior High School, in Houston’s historical predominantly Black Third Ward. Floyd went to school there.
The hand gesture, according to Finner, is a sign of pride representing the Third Ward and referred to by locals as “Chalkin’ Up the Threes.” It’s something akin to University of Miami alumni or students forming the “U” symbol with their thumbs and forefingers.
“These individuals are extremely proud,” said Finner. “They asked the chief to come throw up the Third Ward sign and he did.”
Floyd’s life, which ended under the knee of Minnesota Police Officer Derek Chauvin during nine excruciating minutes that was captured on cellphone video, led to some of the largest civil rights protests in the nation’s history.
In the year-old picture that Acevedo re-posted on his own Twitter page, the chief blasted the person who initially posted it and was offended by it, saying it was “more evidence of the ignorance and racism in our nation.” The chief said he supported the women of Jack Yates High School, who are proud of their alma mater.
Last weekend, Acevedo suspended Miami Police Officer Daniel Ubeda while internal affairs looks into a picture he took with six other members of his squad. In it, Ubeda posed with the very same hand gesture used by the chief.
Reyes claimed the picture, which was posted on the Twitter account of Ubeda’s commander and was removed within 48 hours, was a joke within the squad that refers to itself the “B Shift Six.” But according to the Anti-Defamation League, the centuries-old sign for “okay” was co-opted several years ago by racist groups as a sign representing white power.
Reyes, who two weeks ago released a letter lambasting the chief for his hard-line views on the need for officers to be vaccinated, called Ubeda’s suspension another “knee-jerk” reaction by Acevedo.
Ubeda is the same officer who received a written reprimand for wearing a mask in support of Donald Trump while he was in uniform and on-duty at a voting site at Government Center last October. An internal investigation determined he violated department procedure and courtesy policies.