Members of the Raleigh police union on Tuesday night voted unanimously not to boycott security work for Beyoncé’s concert at Carter-Finley Stadium in May, according to union spokesman Rick Armstrong.
Police unions in cities in Florida and Tennessee have said they would not work security details at the pop star’s concerts because of her recent performance in the Super Bowl halftime show that was seen as a salute to the Black Panthers, a group perceived by many officers to be anti-police.
Matthew Cooper, a Raleigh detective and president of the Raleigh Police Protective Association, said after the meeting that the union fielded input from “a wide spectrum of officers” on a possible boycott.
Although there are concerns over the perceived “anti-law enforcement images” Beyoncé used in her performance and in her most recent music video, Cooper said, union members took an oath to protect and serve all citizens regardless of their political beliefs.
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“Let us be very clear, the Raleigh Police Protective Association does not condone violence against police officers,” he said.
Law enforcement leaders say the Black Panther Party was anti-police and akin to a terrorist group. The group started as armed citizens’ patrols to monitor the behavior of police officers and challenge police brutality in Oakland, Calif.
Armstrong said before the meeting that the office had been fielding phone calls and emails from members about the upcoming concert.
“We’ve been getting some calls from members who advocate a boycott, but the general consensus is, ‘We want to work,’” Armstrong said. He added that while officers may have personal feelings about the Black Panther tribute, the officers want to be professional and not choose a side in the issue.
“We want to protect and serve all the citizens of Raleigh, regardless of their personal beliefs,” he said.
The main focus of the 90-minute meeting was the union’s advocacy for better pay for rank-and-file officers. Raleigh police officers are among the lowest paid law-enforcement officers in the Triangle, Armstrong said, and much of the discussion dealt with a new campaign for pay increases.
The issue of whether union members should provide security for Beyoncé’s performance May 3 was added to the night’s agenda.
“We started hearing about the issue last week and saw that other police unions were going to boycott,” Armstrong said. “Several of our members expressed concern, so we decided to add it to the agenda.”
The police association’s membership of 530 officers represents about 80 percent of the Raleigh department’s sworn officers, Armstrong said.
The Black Panthers gained national attention on May 2, 1967, when its members showed up fully armed at the California General Assembly in Sacramento to protest a bill that would have outlawed carrying loaded weapons in public.
The group also sponsored a free breakfast program for children and other “survival” programs, such as clothing distribution, classes on politics and economics, free medical clinics, transportation to prisons for family members of inmates and sickle cell disease testing.
Javier Ortiz, president of Miami’s Fraternal Order of Police, ignited the police protests with a Feb. 17 letter that accused Beyoncé of using the Super Bowl “to divide Americans by promoting the Black Panthers” and said her “anti-police message shows that she does not support law enforcement.”
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Fox News described Beyoncé’s performance with Bruno Mars and Coldplay as an “attack on police officers,” who are the people “who protect and serve her and protect and serve us, and keep us alive.”