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N.C. firefighter fired over ‘Straight Pride,’ other Facebook posts

Supporters on both sides gathered at the Greensboro city council meeting to protest Capt. Dustin Jones’s firing



By Connor McNeely
News & Record

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The City of Greensboro has fired Capt. Dustin Jones of the Greensboro Fire Department, citing a history of social media posts criticizing transgender people and Black Lives Matter along with an unwillingness to accept training and heed warnings from his supervisors.

Jones was fired on May 12, according to the city. On Tuesday night, citizens packed the council meeting, which was punctuated by loud outbursts as some protested Jones’ firing and others supported it.

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a politician known for his anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ+ positions had weeks earlier urged “normal people” to “take a stand and absolutely flood this hall” in an interview shared on Jones’ Facebook page.

Jones had gone to Facebook to protest his termination in a video in which he claimed he was fired because of a “Straight Pride” meme post made on April 16.

The image, covered with pink and white stripes, featured a white, heterosexual couple being married with the title “Straight Pride” and the caption “It’s natural, it’s worked for thousands of years and you can make babies.”

After Jones appealed his termination by the Greensboro Fire Department, City Manager Taiwo Jaiyeoba upheld the decision in a letter obtained by the News & Record in a records request. In his response, Jaiyeoba defended the termination, citing Jones’ “misuse of social media” and “disrespectful behavior.” Jaiyeoba wrote that Jones had “grown defiant” after numerous coaching sessions and warnings from supervisors.

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The response letter includes other instances of posts and re-posts attributed to Jones including one that stated: “You know what’s insane... A white person can paint their face black and be accused of being a racist. Yet a man can dress as a woman and be called a hero... [shrug emoji]”.

In one post, a meme displayed a picture of Rachel Levine, a transgender woman and the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health, with an image of an assault rifle and this caption in all caps: “IF THIS IS A WOMAN, THIS IS A FISHING POLE.”

Jones’ social media posts date back to 2021 when he took pictures of hoarding conditions in a home while he was responding to a structure fire and posted them on Facebook. On Jan. 27, 2022, Jones posted a picture of a news article about the killing of Tyree Nichols with a caption that read “Mmmmmmm... will we see another George Floyd reaction? Will city’s burn??? ALL LIVES MATTER.....”

Noisy reactions on both sides

All sides of the political spectrum flocked to the Greensboro City Hall to make their voices heard, and more than 40 people signed up to speak during the public comment period.

Members of Guilford For All, an organization advocating for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, wore green shirts and packed the inside of the assembly room. Outside the building, the Communist Party of America flew Pride flags and displayed a sign that read “FASCIST FIREMAN, YOU’RE FIRED.”

Jennifer Ruppe, the executive director of the Guilford Green Foundation and LGBTQ Center, addressed the room: “The true test of your commitment to creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive city is how you all show up when it’s not all rainbows and parades. Because freedom of speech is not freedom of consequences.”

Steve Wall, who identified himself as a friend of Jones, looked out angrily at the crowd during his speech.

“How many of you would come to my house and save my 5-year-old if it’s on fire, knowing that you might lose your life?” he said. “Stand up!”

About a dozen protestors rose from their seats as Wall stared at them silently.

After a moment, an earlier speaker broke into the assembly room and shouted, “F--- you, Fascist!” In the corner of the room, Jones sat quietly among the public, watching as others rose to affirm the city’s decision to terminate him.

When Wall left the room, he was greeted by furious chants of “F--- you, Fascist” from the overflow seating.

As the period for public comment concluded, many members of the protestors from both sides filed out of the building.

Standing outside, members of Guilford For All gathered in a circle and reflected on the day, while Dustin Jones remained inside.

(c)2023 the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.)
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