MUSKEGON, Mich. -- After the events in Charlottesville, Virginia this month, instances of hate speech and divisive actions have received more attention in cities around the country.
But Muskegon Director of Public Safety Jeff Lewis is making a plea to his residents – and anyone who will listen – one that he thinks will help solve the spread of damaging images.
He’s requesting people keep their images off social media. It isn’t the cure to the issue, but it’s a step he believes will minimize the damage of these hateful actions.
“It’s helping forward the message of the haters, and i would just ask that we don’t do that,” said Chief Lewis. “From my experience that’s exactly what they would like.”
Lewis isn’t stranger to these types of instances. Just this month, two high profile cases of vandalism made their way to Muskegon – once in mid-August when a noose was found hanging in a playground outside Glenview Elementary School, and the following day when hate speech was found spray-painted onto a statue on the grounds of Muskegon High School.
Lewis says the city works furiously to get rid of any graffiti within hours of finding it, especially of this nature, but the images live on online when they’re posted to sites like Twitter and Facebook.
“We have to all remind ourselves: do we actually want to forward these hate messages? And in my opinion I say absolutely not,” said Lewis. “We’re taking that hateful graffiti - it’s nothing more than that - and were helping how, instead of ten or twenty people on a statue before we can take it down, we’re showing 20- or 30-thousand people.”
Lewis added that the restoration of the statue cost thousands of dollars, and those responsible could be subject to heavy fines and even jail time for felony charges. He’s been coordinating with local FBI officials in Grand Rapids and the Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office.
“I think it’s just a few individuals, and through social media being so powerful, it’s perpetuating this,” he said.
No arrests have been made in either case. If you have any information on either, call Muskegon City Police of Silent Observer.