(KRON) — Rev. Al Sharpton is calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to protect Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe in the wake of racist text messages exchanged between several members of Antioch’s police force that have surfaced. Sharpton, the founder and president of the National Action Network, put out a press release on Tuesday calling for Attorney General Merrick Garland and the DOJ to “immediately investigate the exchange between 17 police officers in Antioch, California, who sent racist messages to each other.”
In the texts, which Antioch Police Chief Steve Ford called “racially abhorrent,” officers referred to Black people as “gorillas,” “water buffalo,” and “zoo” and “circus” animals, among other racial slurs. The text messages were detailed in reports released by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.
The report cites texts from May of 2020, during the height of the nationwide protest in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of a former Minneapolis police officer. In a post to Officer Eric Rombough, Officer Morteza Amiri refers to Floyd as “the gorilla that died.”
In one text cited by Rev. Sharpton, Officer John Ramirez offers to “buy someone a prime rib dinner” at House of Prime Rib to anyone who shot Mayor Thorpe with a rubber bullet at a Black Lives Matter protest from around the same time period.
“The hood is off for these cops, and we have seen their true colors,” Rev. Sharpton wrote. “When you have 17 members of the Antioch Police Department offering free dinner to whoever shoots the mayor, how can you expect any of them to honestly keep him, let alone anyone else, safe?”
“I am respectfully asking Attorney General Garland to take over this situation, as we have seen these incidents galvanize those who wish to cause harm against Black elected officials. I stand with Mayor Thorpe and the residents of Antioch, who have been deeply and severely betrayed by those sworn to protect them,” Rev. Sharpton concluded.
Tensions in the wake of the release of the reports detailing the text messages recently boiled over in a heated Antioch City Council meeting last week.