Northampton officer’s burger comment gets national attention

  • Grace Coates starts negotiating with Northampton Police Capt. Robert Powers during a protest of police violence and racism in Northampton on June 1. The protesters were chanting, “take a knee,” to the officers.  STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 6/8/2020 5:24:37 PM

NORTHAMPTON — With protests over the killing of George Floyd spreading across the country, Northampton has managed to gain its own slice of national attention.

A video clip from the June 1 protest against police brutality in Northampton aired on an episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” — a weekly HBO show in which the comedian “satirically covers the week in news, politics and current events.”

“Too many still seem to think that this is an issue of a few bad actors,” Oliver said in the half-hour episode on Sunday, which focused on police. “In fact, just listen to one officer unsuccessfully try to make that argument to some protesters just this week.”

The video cuts to a protest scene in Northampton. “One bad hamburger at McDonald’s does not make McDonald’s bad,” Northampton Police Capt. Robert Powers said into a megaphone.

Booing erupted in the crowd. A protester can be heard in the video yelling, “What the f--- does that mean?”

Oliver agreed with the protester.

“Because one hamburger should mean a health inspection,” he said, “a few bad hamburgers might mean that McDonald’s getting shut down, and bad hamburgers regularly killing people on the street would mean that we would maybe all consider going f---ing vegan.”

He added, “This clearly isn’t about individual officers, it’s about a structure built on systemic racism that this country created intentionally and now needs to dismantle intentionally and replace with one that takes into account the needs of the people that it actually serves.”

Powers addressed his comments in an email to the Gazette Monday night. 

“I would like to comment by saying that I deeply apologize if my poor choice of words did not properly convey what  I believe,” he wrote. “Police brutality is never to be tolerated and is not tolerated at NPD.”

The episode has more than 3 million views on YouTube.

This story was updated Tuesday to include Powers’ comments. 

 Greta Jochem can be reached at

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