Protests target Bartow officer after 'racist' post

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Protesters want an officer and chief of police to be fired in Bartow.

Horns honked and drivers waved in support as the demonstrators marched in front of the Bartow Police Station Thursday. The protest stems from something Officer Christina Arribas posted on her Facebook page last November.

The post refers to former President  Barack Obama as a gorilla.

It said, "This year, we lost two gorillas. One is in heaven. One will be moving out of the Whitehouse. One will be missed. One will not be."

"It's not only saying she thinks he is a gorilla, but all those who look like him are possibly considered gorillas," commented Dr. Clayton Cowart, one of the organizers of the event. "How can we trust her judgment on the streets with that attitude? That's pure racism."

The marchers were under the impression that Arribas was suspended for three days without pay. When questioned by reporters, the police department said Arribas was sanctioned for violating the department's social media policy, but not for the gorilla comment. She was sanctioned because she posted photos of herself on Facebook wearing her uniform.

"It is saying, to me, the uniforms are worth more than the comment," said Cowart after he learned the news.

The State Attorney's Office has sent Arribas a letter saying they can no longer use her testimony in court, in regards to future cases in which she may be involved as an officer of the law. If her testimony is no good in court, she may become a liability for the police department, meaning the State Attorney's letter essentially ends her career as an officer on the streets of Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties.