On Jan. 17, ABC 7 News ran a brief story about harassment based on race and sexual orientation at a firehouse in Northeast. The piece described a couple incidents, including one situation in which firefighters hung a mounted deer head with chains and a marijuana blunt in its mouth. Apparently, below the deer head, there was a sign that used the derogatory word “Buck,” saying “The Buck Stops Here, Da Heights Zoo.” (Punctuation added.)
According to the ABC story, Fire Chief Dennis Rubin “issued a statement saying he takes the allegations very seriously and intends to learn all the facts of what occurred.”
Well, clearly Rubin’s response was inadequate to some. A group called E.R.A.S.E. (End Racism And Stop Exploitation), based in Ward 7, is distributing a flier excoriating the department’s handling of the buck incident and the racist culture at the firehouse. Among other allegations, the flier says that “the deer head was bolted to the wall and decorated as part of a pattern of intimidation and exploitation that has included: sex scandals; black firefighters being attacked, hit by plates thrown at their heads by officers, with injuries serious enough to send them to the hospital.”
The flier also blames firehouse leaders and Mayor Adrian Fenty, as well as past mayors, for allowing a racism to “foment” unchecked. E.R.A.S.E., which has roughly 20 members, came together after local firefighters spoke at a ANC 7D meeting, said group commissioner Rick Tingling-Clemmons.
“We wanted to draw attention,” he said about circulating the flier. “We want people who are responsible to act. If I was fire chief, I would immediately have an investigation, and there would be action. I think it’s really bad for men to go into battle like that, with fire—and work in that kind of atmosphere. I would be really afraid myself personally.”
Tingling-Clemmons says the flier is being distributed at various locations in the neighborhood and via e-mail. Read it yourself here. There’s even a picture of the decorated deer.