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Sunday, July 05, 2020

Arrests, sackings as people pose in insensitive ‘George Floyd Challenge’ on social media

An insensitive 'challenge' on social media that has people imitating a police officer kneeling on George Floyd's neck has left people fuming online. Social media sites have been clamping down on people participating in it.

By: Trends Desk | New Delhi | Published: June 5, 2020 11:35:36 am
george floyd, george floyd challenge, teenagers george floyd challenge, teens mocking george floyd death, teens arrested george floyd challenge, viral news, Minneapolis protest, black lives matter protest, us anti racism protest, indian express While all the original posts have been taken down, screenshots of the same is doing rounds across social media sites. (Source: @GraysonRowles/ Twitter)

The death of George Floyd while in police custody has been condemned across the world and has sparked protests in the US. However, an insensitive challenge on social media that has people imitating a police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck has left people fuming online. Social media sites are now cracking down on users participating in the challenge named after the dead man and are blocking the hashtag on its platforms.

One of the screenshots shows it was shared on SnapChat, while other photos and videos indicate these images were posted on Facebook and Instagram stories. Both social media platforms have blocked the hashtag for violating ‘community standards’.


The trend got a lot of attention online after an online petition asked to “Have TikTok remove any content involving the ‘George Floyd challenge!!’” None of the images or videos are on the platform and users who search the hashtag will find protest videos condemning the police.

It all started when a photo of a high school wrestling coach with a man kneeling on his neck began circulating on social media sites. The Bethel School District coach was later fired for his controversial post that sparked outrage online.

In the criticised post, Dave Hollenbeck, the man was pictured with a knee pressed into his back, wrote: “Not dead yet. This is for all the race baiters and people that don’t What they’re talking about when they’re saying this could kill you.”

“His behaviour was not consistent with our equity initiatives and nondiscrimination policies,” a school spokesperson said according to KOMO News. Hollenbeck later apologised for his remarks.

One of the photos part of the posts denouncing the challenge involved two construction workers from East Bethel, Minnesota.

Both who have been fired from the company, including the owner’s son, after their photos were widely shared online, with an intent to punish them for spreading hate. The business owner at Shade Tree Construction announced the termination of the employees on Facebook.

Two high school seniors in Missouri also found their admission to universities rescinded after they uploaded a similar Snapchat video. Missouri State University President, Clif Smart, clarified in a post that the students involved had “chosen to withdraw.”

The others seen in viral posts were taken by three UK teenagers, and said “police brutality” in their captions. One of the photos caught the attention of local police in Northumbria in Britain and led to the arrest of all three on Sunday, for what police said was a “hate crime.”

According to BBC News, officials from the Northumbria Police investigating the case said the three teenagers were released on bail.

One of the original images was shared in a Snapchat video and the teens later shut down their social media profiles, according to the Daily Mail. The Warwick Anti-Racism Society put up a letter identifying one of the teens as a student who was supposed to attend college from September and appealed to the authorities to look into his admission.

Bradford University also launched an investigation after a photo of teenagers appearing to mock Floyd’s death was shared on social media. The image, captioned “police brutality”, was shared in Freshers’ Facebook groups and then on Twitter. It showed a boy with his knee on his friend’s neck while both were smiling. The university in a statement wrote on Twitter it was “investigating the matter as a priority.”

Another 26-year-old man in Fife, Scotland, was also arrested for an image mocking the death of Floyd. Although the original post was deleted, he was nabbed on the basis of screenshots. The image showed one man lying face down on the ground while the other had his knee on his neck. The man on top is staring into the camera with his arms flexed and captioned it “George Floyd challenge 2020”.

According to The Courier, a spokesperson said, “Enquiries into the incident, which was reported to Police Scotland on Tuesday June 2, 2020, are ongoing.”

Two students from St Joseph’s College Gregory Terrace in Brisbane, Australia also face action for a similar picture. In a statement to Australia’s 9News the college said, “The actions of a small number of students in no way reflect the College’s values and explicit teachings. We are treating the matter seriously and dealing with it as an absolute priority.”

The report added that the student on the ground was “not a willing participant in the incident, but rather a victim of bullying”.

A TikTok spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia that it values and celebrate “inclusivity and are focussed on promoting an environment free from hateful speech”. In a statement the popular video app, added: “As we make clear in our community guidelines, content that praises violent tragedies or disparages their victims is a direct violation of our guidelines and we will remove any such content from our platform.”

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