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Social media threats against Black Lives Matter protesters lead to police investigation

Posted at 4:56 PM, Jul 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-06 18:27:13-04
FLUSHING, Mich. (WXYZ) —

Comments calling for violence against Black Lives Matter protesters in a community near Flint have led to a police investigation.

“Threats on social media can become criminal,” said Chief Mark Hoornstra of the Flushing City Police Department.

Police let residents know that a street would be closed for a Black Lives Matter Protest. Organizers spread the word. Soon on social media there were heated conversations.

One woman posted concerns about whether the protest could be violent on a “Back the Blue” Facebook group page. The page touts itself as for law enforcement and law enforcement supporters.

One comment said, “Make sure you have lots of ammo.”

Another said, “Get on your roof. Grab a sniper rifle. Lock and load. And when you see them protesters coming you start shooting them all.”

“It is sad to see they have so much hate in their hearts still and they aren’t seeing this the way it should be seen,” said Malia Marve, one of the organizers of the demonstration.

Marve is a senior at Grand Valley State University who says Flushing is home. She said she and other organizers of the event in Flushing are not people to be afraid of. They say they want to peacefully start conversations about how to prevent police brutality.

She says on numerous “pro-police” Facebook pages they paint all protesters as having extreme anti-police views. She says some might. But many, including her, don’t.

“A lot of people are like all these cops should quit their jobs because they work for a corrupt system," Marve said. "My response is we work in America and it is corrupt but we not packing our bags and moving to Canada. We are staying and making a change here."

She is grateful that Flushing police investigated the threats against protesters like her and then asked Michigan State Police to assist.

“We’ve asked them to monitor it,” Chief Hoornstra said. “We have been told a couple of things they have come across that they have identified as non-credible. But there is new stuff that comes all the time and they are really busy right now. There are things going on everywhere.”

Police say while they have not seen any indication that the threats made were credible, threats can, in theory, still be considered criminal. That would be up to a prosecutor.

As for who's making these comments, many asked if they could be police? 7 Action News looked into about a dozen people we saw talking about violence against protesters in Flushing. None appeared to be from Michigan. We found no evidence any were police officers. None responded to requests for comment.

7 Action News reached out to an administrator of the Back the Blue Facebook Page for comment.

“It is very apparent from our rules and the post pinned at the top of the page that we do not condone threats of any sort. With such a large group we can’t possibly see every single comment but we do our best to provide a safe and supportive place for law enforcement and their supporters. If we don’t catch comments, our members usually do and report them to us, at which time offenders are removed from the group,” said an administrator who goes by the name Maryanne Elizabeth on Facebook.