As an organization, we felt it necessary to shine light on something that typically hides in the dark as a “cost of doing business” as an LGBTQ+ community center.
On the heels of the insurrection in our nation’s Capitol (an insurrection enabled and encouraged by white supremacist groups and language), a threatening statement was posted to our website over the weekend, targeting our LGBTQ+ center and greater community.
After reading the content and investigating, we have found out much more about this person and what we have found confirms our worst fears.
So what did we do? We got to work.
Please know that these steps are also available to you and every citizen receiving threats and/or being bullied.
Our first action, as ever, was to contact our attorney, Beth McCree for her advice.
We then contacted the FBI, as online threats are a federal crime. Our team provided them with all the information needed to investigate via their reporting tool set up to receive tips following the attempted coup at the US Capitol. That tool, for reference, can be found at http://fbi.gov/uscapitol/
We contacted the Office of the Attorney General in Michigan and then, at their direction, the Michigan State Police.
We contacted Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety and were issued a report number.
We contacted the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department.
We contacted the police department where the aggressor lives, notifying the Chief of the threat residing in their area.
Then we reached out to all our peer LGBTQ+ organizations in the State of Michigan, only to find out that we weren’t the only LGBTQ+ Center to have received similar very threatening and ominous messages by this person. We are now sharing information among our organizations to be sure we build an evidentiary file, as well as connect with our broader Michigan family to grow our knowledge and bolster our courage in this new era.
Always remember this: we are not alone and never will be, especially when we band together to make good on our nation’s promise – one denied to too many since our nation’s founding. Instead of flight or fight: stand and fight for our integrity; a need not unique to the LGBT+ community.
We are thankful to law enforcement for their assistance in documenting this threat. However, something that is important to note: this is not illegal until this person were to follow through on the threat, or continue to threaten our organization and community.
Lastly, and most importantly: fear is a sobering emotion. It is a necessary emotion and it is how many of you are feeling. However, what you do with that emotion can make the difference between you engaging in destructive behaviour or helping to set in motion lasting and equitable changes.
We are leaning into this moment. Please join us:
- Stay vigilant.
- If you see, hear, or read something, say something – immediately.
- Reach out to friends and family immediately for support and guidance.
- If you feel there is a threat informed by the attempted coup in our nation’s Capitol, reach out to law enforcement in the order outlined above.
- Keep copies and screenshots of any and all evidence and reports.
- Share with others as we have done here in ways that educate and provide a framework of support for taking positive and powerful actions.
- If you are in need of emotional support or need to connect with community, feel free to attend some of the OutCenter programs.
- Look up and connect with Spectrum Health Lakeland’s Community Grand Rounds events on Facebook.
- Engage with United Way of Southwest Michigan’s 21 Day Equity Challenge.
- Get involved with Lake Michigan College’s MLK Celebration week.
Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.James Baldwin