Sheriffs’ Association Bullies Teen Girls over ‘I Can’t Breathe’ Shirts

Justin King
December 29, 2014

(TheAntiMedia) A girls’ basketball team in Northern California has reportedly decided to sit out a tournament after the school district decided that wearing “I Can’t Breathe” shirts was a threat to “safety.” It should be noted that there were no safety concerns at the other games where the shirts were worn. There was no issue until the Mendocino County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association got involved.

“I Can’t Breathe.” Eric Garner’s final words have become a rallying cry for those seeking police accountability. The girls have worn the shirts during warm ups at three other games, but now the school district has decided to disallow them from competing during a school-sponsored event because of the shirts. The decision is in blatant disregard to Supreme Court precedent.

In Tinker v. Des Moines (1969), the Supreme Court upheld the right of students to wear politically charged clothing. Students protesting the Vietnam War showed their disapproval by wearing black armbands. They were suspended and the case wound up in the US Supreme Court. In a 7-2 ruling, the Court sided with the students and said:

“Students don’t shed their constitutional rights at the school house gates.”

Setting aside the blatant disregard for the players’ rights, the school invoked the standard line of tyrants by citing security concerns in order to silence unfavorable speech. The only message the school is sending is that independent thought is somehow worthy of punishment.

The Associated Press did what proper state-run media should do and sought to find any way at all to discredit the girls. The AP clumsily found a way to insert the statement that Mendocino County is known for growing pot. The inference is pretty clear: since these girls come from an area “known” for growing marijuana, they must be potheads and their opinion isn’t worth anything.

Administrators at Fort Bragg High School, who are enforcing the ban, have said that spectators wearing the shirts will be asked to leave. There is no such statement about the pro-law enforcement “breathe easy” shirt that mocks Eric Garner’s last words.

The statement issued by the varsity team that wore the shirts says it all in the first line:

“To the Mendocino County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association and all concerned citizens,”

A driving force behind this ban was a Deputy Sheriffs’ Association that lost one of its members in March. The Association referred to the shirts as “disrespectful” and cited Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino’s death in a Facebook post. The only thing we can assume is that the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association believes that Del Fiorentino was someone who engaged in police brutality before his death. Otherwise, the shirt has nothing to do with him.

These girls didn’t dishonor Deputy Del Fiorentino’s memory, the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association did when the decided to bully teenage girls in his name. If this was done out of respect to Del Fiorentino, we must assume that he was a cop that beat people and violated the constitutional rights of children. That’s the legacy the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association has given him.

To be fair, I conducted a quick public records search. I think the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association is wrong. Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino can barely be found in the searches. That means there were no notable complaints against him. In fact, he may be one of the few cops in California that could say that. His record indicates that he would be the kind of cop the community would name a road after. He doesn’t seem like the type that bullied kids, but his co-workers might know better.

The team didn’t think poorly of Del Fiorentino either. In the open letter they state:

“Some of us and many of our parents personally knew Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino. He was the best example of a law enforcement officer who knew how to calm down tense situations peacefully. Our protest has nothing to do with exemplary officers like Deputy Del Fiorentino.”

All research indicates that Deputy Del Fiorentino was a cop who helped kids in the community and kept his oath to uphold the Constitution until the day he died. The Mendocino County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association might as well have gone out to the cemetery and urinated on his grave because bullying a bunch of kids over their Freedom of Speech so the Sheriffs’ Association can further some political agenda goes against everything this man stood for.

The shame here isn’t on the basketball players; it’s on a Deputy Sheriffs’ Association that would cheapen the memory of one their own.


This article (Sheriffs’ Association Bullies Teen Girls over ‘I Can’t Breathe’ Shirts) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and TheAntiMedia.org. Tune-in to The Anti-Media radio show Monday-Friday @ 11pm EST, 8pm PST. Image credit: Laura Baranek

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