A northern Michigan village president is refusing to apologize for a series of anti-Muslim Facebook posts, including one that called for the death of “every last Muslim.”
Jeff Sieting is town president of Kalkaska, Michigan, a town of fewer than 3,000 people. He has served as an elected official in Kalkaska since 2010 and has a history of posting anti-Black Lives Matter and pro-Trump Facebook statuses, along with alt-right conspiracies like Pizzagate.
A Kalkaska town resident named Cindy Anderson noticed the recent Islamophobic post, and others like it, a few weeks ago. She and other residents confronted Sieting about them at a June 26 town meeting.
“You ran for office to represent all the people of this community, not just the white, non-Muslim ones,” she said to Sieting. “You were supposed to represent all of your constituents.”
Sieting has maintained he was exercising his first amendment right to free speech, saying he “owes nobody an apology for exercising my First Amendment rights.” He also positioned himself as the victim, claiming that Kalkaska residents have turned against him for his outwardly pro-Trump attitude. Sieting runs the village hotel and placed a banner in front that reads, “Pray 4 Trump.”
“When I refused to take [the banner] down, [opposing residents] decided that I was all of the sudden interesting enough to go dig back in my personal Facebook page, a year-ish, roughly, and find something that really didn’t sit well with them,” Sieting told Michigan Radio. “And so then they took it and pasted it all over the place. I didn’t hang that comment on the front of my hotel. I put it on my personal Facebook page. The article truly was very interesting and worth posting.”
Residents have pushed back on this, arguing that his role as village president places limits on what he can and cannot post about.
Kalkaska has become divided over the issue. Cindy Anderson and other residents opposed to Sieting have organized a Facebook group of 154 members called “Kalkaska Residents for Peace,” to organize protests, and to find a replacement for Sieting,who is up for election in 2018.
Meanwhile, those in support of Sieting gathered almost 150 strong at an open carry event in front of his hotel. Some who attended said they didn’t agree with Sieting’s social media posts, but supported his First Amendment rights. Others, however, shared his sentiment.
“Everything he said on there is the frigging truth about these [Muslim] people,” said Kalkaska resident Danny O’Hara. “They’re not even people in my eyes anymore.”