A police officer in Toronto, Canada, got a makeover to show his support for gay rights and stand up to bullying.
Police Constable Luke Watson dyed his hair pink this week to raise awareness for the LGBT community. But his colorful hairdo will last him for at least another three weeks because of international support he's been shown on social media.
The International Day of Pink originated in Nova Scotia in 2007 when two high school students stood up for their gay peer who was being bullied for wearing a pink shirt. Now, it is a Canadian anti-bullying and LGBT awareness event held annually on the second Wednesday of April.
It all started on Tuesday when Watson tweeted a photograph of a generic police cruiser — painted pink — to his colleague and friend, Constable Ryan Willmer. The two officers said they often lightheartedly banter over social media to raise awareness for a topic. It started out as a harmless tweet, Watson told msnbc on Friday.
Willmer responded on Twitter by posting an image of Watson and declaring that his friend would dye his hair pink if 200 people retweeted his post. But Watson didn't know about the tweet until after Willmer posted it. By Wednesday morning, the message had gained nearly 600 retweets.
"We show our followers that we have a human element, rather than just put out standard tweets," Willmer told msnbc. "To be honest, I didn't think we were going to get this response."
Watson didn't find out about his friend's plan until he was driving to the police station on Wednesday morning. When Watson arrived to work, a local news crew was there to record the event.
"At first it took me off guard," he said. "I have no problem stepping out of my comfort zone. I just didn’t know what the response would be … But Ryan and I said it’s worth the risk, so we did it."
Watson donned a pink towel and agreed to change his hair color before he attended the Day of Pink event at Forest Hill Collegiate Institute in Toronto. Watson's hair was an "immediate hit" with all of the students at the high school, as well as with the chief of police and other peers on the force, the officers said.
Watson's makeover was so well-received that the policemen decided to try for 1,000 retweets, with the plan of keeping the hair for an additional day for every 100 reposts. Within an hour, the pair reached 1,000 retweets, and capped it later when they reached 3,200. They also earned support through a similar post on Facebook. Watson will have pink hair for at least three weeks.
The officers' tweets received worldwide recognition, from Australia, Ireland, and the Philippines, to Syria, Nigeria, Mexico, and the United States.
"The response has been completely overwhelming. It's amazing," Watson said. "I have no problem keeping it going and keeping the conversation out there."
Willmer said his friend promised to maintain his new hair color for six months if comedian Ellen DeGeneres invites them onto her show.