Boston Firefighter Fired Over Online Posts

The Boston firefighter who posted a cartoon image of a muscular Black man carrying the severed head of a white man, has been terminated. Octavius Rowe, a 15 year veteran, was fired on April 30, 2018 following an investigation that began last October. Here is a copy of the cartoon, titled “Nat Turner’s Slave Rebellion.”

The department’s investigation also looked at other posts by Rowe, including some that were reportedly anti-Semitic and others that were anti-LGBTQ.

The Boston Globe reached out to Rowe by phone, and quoted him as saying:

  • The [disciplinary] process is absolutely flawed.
  • There is long and, I would say, storied battle with extreme, disparate disciplinary practices within the Boston Fire Department.
  • And my case is just the latest in that line.

The Globe quoted Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh as saying:

  • I have spent my career fighting for the most vulnerable, their safety and their rights.
  • Boston is a better city because of our diversity and everyone regardless of who they love, what they believe in, or where they are from, deserves to feel welcome here.
  • I am saddened that an employee of the Boston Fire Department has not only shown a disagreement with those values, but is promoting violence against our LGBTQ community.
  • This is unacceptable as a public employee and especially as a public safety official, and I will not allow this kind of hate in our city.

Rowe’s attorney, Robert Johnson, sent the Globe an email stating his client has already:

  • “filed a complaint alleging lack of just cause in his termination.
  • In addition, he will file a charge of discrimination with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination where he will allege race discrimination and retaliation.
  • Finally, he believes that the City of Boston and it’s fire department violated His First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association.
  • We plan to pursue vindication of his rights to the fullest extent of the law.”

More on the story.

Earlier coverage.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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