Support for a national law enforcement boycott of Beyonce’s world tour appears to be picking up steam, even as critics dismiss the action as unnecessary.
The Miami Fraternal Order of Police urged the boycott Thursday ahead of the tour’s April launch at Marlins Park. But backlash against Beyonce started almost immediately after the superstar singer’s release of her controversial “Formation” music video and Super Bowl 50 halftime show performance earlier this month.
Critics have objected to the #BlackLivesMatter themes in both, and specifically to her backup dancers at the halftime performance being outfitted in Black Panther-like costumes.
In one portion of the music video, a young African-American boy wearing a hoodie dances before a line of police officers wearing riot gear before the words “Stop Shooting Us” appear in graffiti on a wall.
“To taint police officers globally in the Super Bowl is really wrong,” said Sgt. Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association in New York City.
Mullins said the boycott, which he supports, would involve officers refusing to work paid off-duty security for the event, not refusing to perform regular law enforcement duties.
“I can guarantee that if Beyonce needs help anywhere, police would respond,” Mullins said, adding that he is concerned that even though “she is in a major position to do things that are positive” she is pitting herself against law enforcement.
“She made a statement and now law enforcement is making a statement. What’s clear is that no one in the country is trying to resolve the issues between communities of color and the distrust of law enforcement,” he said.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was also a vocal critic of the halftime show, telling CNN’s Don Lemon that he found it emotionally offensive. Giuliani also said the singer should use her celebrity to encourage people “to respect the uniform, not to make it appear as if they are the enemy.”
Representatives for the Stop Mass Incarceration Network disagreed, arguing that celebrities like Beyonce have a right to speak out against police brutality without being attacked.
A statement released by the group, founded in part by Dr. Cornel West in 2011, said, “At a time when people have been rising up against the genocidal tide of police terror and mass incarceration in ways we haven’t seen since the 60’s, backward fascist reactionaries like Rudolph Giuliani and various national police organizations have unleashed a torrent of abuse attacking Beyonce and accusing her of ‘cop killer entertainment.'”
But Mullins said that when celebrities like Beyonce and public officials make statements against law enforcement, it makes officers’ jobs more dangerous. He says they have seen more assaults on law enforcement due to anti-police sentiment.
The National Sheriffs’ Association blamed Beyonce’s “anti-police ‘entertainment'” performance for four officer deaths last week. And after shots were fired outside his home this week, a sheriff in Tennessee held a news conference saying Beyonce’s video may have provoked the shootings.
Later, in a Facebook post, Rutherford County, Tennessee, Sheriff Robert Arnold said his comments “reflect the violence and senseless killing of seven deputies in the U.S. since the show aired. My comments are an observation of the violence that has occurred but in no way is meant to offend anyone.”
The executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations pledged the group’s support Friday for the boycott.
“Why would any group of working men and women support a rich celebrity who openly glorifies murderers? Why would anybody?” asked the group’s executive director, Bill Johnson.
The Massachusetts Police Association said it is just beginning to discuss the issue of the boycott, while other police unions are starting to hold meetings to decide how they will handle the situation.
Frederick Frazier with the Dallas Police Association in Texas said the group is discussing the possibility of joining the boycott.
“We are very happy that our brothers and sisters in blue are boycotting anyone who tarnishes the image of law enforcement,” Frazier told CNN. “And when she (Beyonce) comes to Dallas, she needs to know that the anti-police message is not welcomed. We respect anyone’s First Amendment rights, but we also respect our officers and any law-abiding citizens (and) we will not respect those who tarnish our profession.”
Joe Gamaldi, the vice president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union in Texas, said the group wants more information before deciding whether to join the boycott.
“It is not needed until she explains her video and whether there is an anti- police address/message she is trying to bring to the public,” Gamaldi said.
In a statement, Javier Ortiz, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, accused the singer of using her recent Super Bowl performance “to divide Americans by promoting the Black Panthers and her anti-police message.”
Ortiz wrote Thursday that he “was one of the tens of thousands of law enforcement officers that didn’t watch the Super Bowl halftime show of respect for our profession,” but that “on another day while flipping through the television channels, I did mistakenly watch her ‘Formation’ video.”
A representative for Beyonce was not immediately available to comment. But a spokesman for the Miami Police Department told The Huffington Post that the union spoke only for itself and that “there’s no indication that anything that is said there will translate into police officers not working the job.”
“The smartest thing for everybody to do is to find a table and sit down and to create an atmosphere and programs that benefit children and police officers, to rebuild trust and change a culture that is now in existence,” Mullins said, offering to work with Beyonce to build such programs.