WHITEHALL, Mich. — Fred Civis, a 39 year employee of Plumb's Valu-Rite Foods in Whitehall, Mich. says he was fired for hugging a customer.
It's a story that's rattled the small Muskegon County community as several dozen supporters of Civis gathered Saturday morning in the parking lot of his former employer to show they stand by him and his actions.
Holding signs, singing songs and collecting donations for Civis and his wife, many of the people gathered said they've known Civis for years, and many told FOX 17 they didn't believe he did anything wrong and that the allegations against him were either overblown or untrue.
"I can't understand why somebody would do something like this," said Amy Robart. "It's just terrible, people need to learn to love and the hate needs to go away."
Since FOX 17s original story, the Muskegon County prosecutor says four more women have come forward alleging Civis had touched them inappropriately while on the job, but Civis defends his actions saying he was simply being friendly.
"I gave her what I used, what we used to term as a kid, a pal hug, you put your arm around the shoulder, you put your arm around the shoulder, ya know you’re best pals,” Civis said in a previous interview with FOX 17.
A police report of the incident obtained by FOX 17 says the victim claims that Civis bagged the items and then put his arm around her shoulders then brushed his hand over her butt.
A Facebook page entitled "Boycott Whitehall Plumb's for Fred" has garnered more than 10,000 likes in just the past few days, something the creator Timothy Cooper said he never expected.
"I think originally it was to start a page so that people would be aware that Plumb's let go probably their best employee and unjustly in my eyes," he said during the rally.
"Knowing Fred and knowing his love of people and and love of life, I think it's unfair."
Meanwhile the alleged victim and others believed to be that complainant received death threats.
It`s something the Muskegon County Prosecutor’s office says they`re taking seriously, warning they may press felony charges on those responsible.
"For 30-some years we've all gotten hugs from Fred and we love it, if you don't like it then tell him," said Kathy Jenson.
Civis did not attend Saturday's rally. He is expected to be back in court facing a misdemeanor assault and battery charge later this month.