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In Kalkaska, a town divided over official's anti-Muslim posts

A northern Michigan town is divided over a local official's Islamophobic Facebook posts.

Jeff Sieting is the village president of Kalkaska.

He's come under fire for a series of Facebook posts that call for violence against Muslims and other minority groups.

About 100 protestors calling for Sieting’s removal gathered in downtown Kalkaska last night.

“While we do totally honor and respect someone’s freedom of speech, I feel that they should be held accountable for their speech,” said Phoebe Hopps. She lives in the nearby town of Kewadin and organized the protest. “And when you’re talking about killing an entire religion of people and burning down their homes, that is the type of hate speech that we cannot tolerate in Northern Michigan.”

Meanwhile, another 150 people gathered across the street near Sieting’s family-owned hotel for an “open carry" event to support him.

Many said they didn’t agree with Sieting’s social media posts, but came to defend his right to free speech.

Others were very much on board with Sieting’s anti-Muslim message.

“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.”

There were some heated confrontations, but the gatherings remained non-violent.

(Read more from Interlochen Public Radio here.)

Kaye is an alumnus of Michigan Tech's environmental engineering program. She got her start making maps for the Traverse City-Based water news organization Circle of Blue, and, since then, she's been pretty devoted to science communication and data visualization.