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Detroit man faces terrorism charge for social media threats against police

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Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio
A Detroit man is facing a terrorism charge after threatening police on social media.

A Detroit man is facing a terrorism charge for making threats against police officers on social media.

Nheru Gowan Littleton, 40, made a series of threats against police officers on Facebook in July, according to Detroit Police. They included statements like “All lives can’t matter until Black Lives matter!!!! Kill all white cops!!!”

That amounts to a “terroristic threat” under Michigan law, according to state Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is bringing the charges.

Littleton made “specific” and “very graphic” threats that were “made to provoke and incite people to violence” against officers, Schuette said. “And what that does, is it makes Detroit and Michigan, and frankly the country, less safe.”

Detroit Police Chief James Craig and Detroit Police Officers Association leader Mark Diaz stood alongside Schuette as he announced the charges.

“The message is clear. You threaten to kill a police officer, there will be a certain response,” said Craig.

The charges come after Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy declined to charge Littleton and two others for making threatening comments about police on social media.

Those comments were “too vague” to constitute “true threats” as required by Michigan’s terrorism statute, Worthy said.

While Craig and Diaz pronounced themselves “incredibly thrilled” with Schuette’s decision to charge Littleton, the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is concerned about a potential “chilling effect” on speech.

ACLU attorney Dan Korobkin says the comments did not constitute a credible threat, but rather fall into the category of “charged political rhetoric,” which is protected speech under the First Amendment.

In addition, Korobkin said the ACLU is concerned that similar protections don’t apply to other individuals or groups who are threatened on social media.

“I think everyone should be questioning if these Facebook comments were about some other group…whether Chief Craig would be quite as zealous,” in pursuing charges, Korobkin said.

“[It’s] absolutely in and of itself a violation of the First Amendment for police to focus on police-targeted speech…it suggests that if you say anything about the cops they don’t like, they will come knocking at your door.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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