GREAT LAKES BEACON

Activists Seek To ‘Wash Away The Hate’ In Kalkaska

Whether it’s a call for death to all Muslims or covering his business in pro-Trump messages, Kalkaska Village President Jeff Sieting is leaving an impression – and for some, not a good one.

Most recently, a picture of Sieting’s business, Sieting Hotel, has made the rounds on Facebook over the political signage that covers it, including one sign that says, “For New Birth of Freedom, Please Vote TRUMP.” Sieting has since changed the sign to say “Pray” for Trump after calls for him to take it down because it allegedly violated the village ordinance that such signs must be removed within 10 days of an election.

But more than the sign, what seems to be attracting statewide media attention are messages on his publicly visible Facebook page. Perhaps most notably, opponents of Sieting are calling out some of his anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant posts.

They point to an example from November 2016 in which Sieting made a post titled “Kill Them All – Every Last One” that compared Islam to “a flesh-eating bacteria” and called on nuclear weapons to be used on Muslim cities. It appeared to be copied from another source. And in February this year, an anti-immigrant post of his own concluded with, “If you want a pet (M)uslim to make you feel all warm and fuzzy about yourself, go get one and drag him into your home to stay PLEASE. That way we can thin out you bleeding heart wanna be liberals.”

Sieting, in an interview with the Great Lakes Beacon, said he keeps his page public because he is a public official and that “people are the strongest form of government,” he said.

Still, numerous organizations are hosting what they expect to be a peaceful demonstration to symbolically “Wash The Hate Away” on Friday, a statement issued by those organizations said. It will bring together organizers from Women Organize Michigan, Women’s March Michigan, Michigan Muslim Community Council, EmergeUSA Michigan, Islamic Center of East Lansing and No Space for Hate. They are encouraging participants to wear white and “bring sponges, buckets, mops and brooms,” the statement indicates.

“We adhere to our Women’s March Unity Principles for human rights and reject the path of xenophobia,” said Phoebe Hopps, organizer for Women’s March Michigan, who said she believes “public displays of hate by elected officials are unacceptable.”

Hopps added, in a statement, “We stand with our Muslim sisters and brothers and will not tolerate infringements on their rights. We must stand together in unity with those of different backgrounds against injustices, and practice our American right to demonstrate peacefully.”

But Sieting, when asked if he thought his First Amendment rights were being violated over his Facebook page, said “absolutely.”

“They came across some things they found to be offensive,” Sieting said of opponents. “Understandably. I’m not asking everybody to share my views.”

He said he took an oath of office to stand for his residents, his community and to uphold the Constitution. Accordingly, he is “not paying a lot of attention” to the slated demonstration, he said.

“I look at my Facebook page and … I look at it as continuing to eat something you don’t like. If you don’t like it, don’t eat it,” Sieting said, noting that people should apply the same logic to reading his page. “But what’s your objective? We can all live in this euphoric world where we solve all these issues … but nobody is on everybody’s side, and if everybody is on your side, you’re a liar.”

Sieting said he also believes that he has “brought more good to this community than it’s had in 30 years,” and that the council “cares more about the community than it does itself for the first time in 20 years,” noting that he can’t speak for before that time because he was not actively involved in the political scene previously.

More information on the demonstration can be found on the event’s Facebook page.

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson