Police in Hamburg have been forced to apologise after they tweeted a picture of a family of white swans being escorted to safety by officers and said in the caption that they would have “done it for black swans too”.
While they were at first impervious to netizens criticising their tweet, after the trickle of backlash became a torrent accusing them of racism, they deleted it and posted an apology, but this seems to have backfired too as they were then accused of trying to hide the fact that they had been racist.
The original picture showed a family of white swans being escorted to safety by police officers in the Billstedt district in Hamburg in the northern German state of the same name.
The cops said at the end of the tweet caption: “By the way, we would have done it for black swans too!”
This did not go down well with netizens.
A netizen called ‘nail brush’, for example, said: “When exactly did racism become a grim punchline, Hamburg Police? Can you please explain who gets the idea to make a joke of this kind in times like these and considering the current debate?”
At first the police dismissed the comments but soon, when it appeared that the criticism was widespread, they deleted the tweet and posted an apology, saying “We are currently receiving clear criticism for this tweet.”
They claimed they had meant that police were there to serve “everyone, and take our measures regardless of a person’s appearance, gender, origin or religious background”.
They added that the message was therefore “neither funny nor hurtful”. They did, however, acknowledge that they had underestimated how sensitive the topic was, and that is why the tweet was deleted.
But many of their critics were not appeased by this either. Some said that important issues of racism and police violence had been ridiculed with the tweet, while others said that people should not be compared to animals, while others still said that the tweet showed that institutionalised racism was being relativised.
Others still pointed out that it was not necessary to point out the differences between white and black people anyway, while others accused the police to have folded in the face of “the professional rabble”.
Some, however, praised the police for dealing with the situation professionally.
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