More than 20 people, led by the Reform Movement of Terre Haute, rallied in front of Terre Haute Police Department headquarters Saturday afternoon to call for the firing of one of its officers.
"Hey, hey, ho, ho, [Sgt. Brad] Newman has got to go," was the refrain and rally cry for those gathered to say Newman's recent suspension for violating the department's social media policy wasn't enough.
In December, Newman posted on his personal Facebook a rant that called for using nuclear weapons against China, saying China was responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.
THPD later suspended Newman for six days — Jan. 5 to 7 and Jan. 11 to 13 — and required him to report for remedial supervision and additional training for six months regarding the expectations of supervisors.
Newman also is the Vigo County clerk, having been elected to his second term in November.
The newspaper's attempts to reach Newman and city Police Chief Shawn Keen on Saturday were not successful.
In a Jan. 4 letter of suspension, Assistant Chief Matt Carden said Newman was disciplined because his "posts have negatively affected the public perception of the department.”
Some say those punishments aren't enough and that they've done little more than warn against lax privacy settings on personal Facebook pages.
Protesters on Saturday called for the city's police merit commission to take up a new investigation and override the punishments handed down by departmental leadership.
"We’re here because Brad Newman has proven himself to be a danger to this community, but the THPD doesn’t seem to care," said Dominique Morefield, an organizer with the Reform Movement of Terre Haute.
"They took away his pay for a few days, assigned him more training in social media, and put him back on the street with a gun and a badge. We need the merit commission to step in, protect the public welfare and review the department’s charade of a disciplinary investigation. We think the facts will clearly show that Brad Newman has got to go."
Fellow organizer Emma Crossen said many have taken exception to the idea that Newman was misunderstood and didn't intend to insult anyone.
"He knew exactly how his posts were being read and he was proud of it," Crossen said. "After he called for nuking China, someone asked him on Facebook to clarify: 'Are you really suggesting murdering millions of innocent men, women, and children?'
"And what did Newman say? 'Yes I am. Absolutely! Smoke 'em.' ... He’s a violent bigot who is used to acting with impunity," Crossen said.
The Greater Terre Haute branch of the NAACP announced on Friday it had endorsed Saturday's rally.
"The problem lies when the bad cops hide behind the brotherhood of the good cops, who don’t expose the bad cop, which makes all cops look bad," said branch President Sylvester Edwards.
"The solution to this issue must be solved by their union, the Fraternal Order of Police. They know who among their ranks are harming the image of the majority. Be it known and now be it resolved, the ball is in your court, good cops. Do the right thing," Edwards said in an emailed statement.
Reporter Alex Modesitt can be reached at 812-231-4232 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TribStarAlex.