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Michigan man faces hate crime charges after threatening BLM supporters, DOJ says

Protesters hold a Black Lives Matter flag as they march for Patrick Lyoya, a Black man who was fatally shot by a police officer, in downtown Grand Rapids, Mich.
MUSTAFA HUSSAIN
/
AFP via Getty Images
Protesters hold a Black Lives Matter flag as they march for Patrick Lyoya, a Black man who was fatally shot by a police officer, in downtown Grand Rapids, Mich.

A Michigan man was charged with hate crimes after he allegedly intimidated supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement by leaving handwritten notes and nooses around his community, the Department of Justice said.

Kenneth Pilon, 61, has been charged with six counts of interfering with federally protected activities for incidents dating back to June and July 2020 — which is when the wave of nationwide protests began after the murder of George Floyd.

Floyd, 46, died on May 25, 2020, when Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes, ultimately killing him.

Pilon allegedly called nine Starbucks stores across Michigan, telling workers that answered his calls to tell the employees wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts that "the only good n***er is a dead n***er," according to the criminal complaint filed this week.

Pilon is also accused of telling one of the employees, "I'm gonna go out and lynch me a n*****."

Over the course of the month, authorities say Pilon left four nooses in parking lots across Saginaw, Mich., with notes attached that read, "An accessory to be worn with your 'BLM' t-shirt. Happy protesting!" according to the criminal complaint. Authorities say a fifth one was found inside a 7-Eleven in a beverage cooler.

A spokesperson for Starbucks and 7-Eleven did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

"Specifically, Pilon intimidated and attempted to intimidate citizens from participating lawfully in speech and peaceful assembly opposing the denial of Black people's right to enjoy police protection and services free from brutality," the complaint said.

At this time, it is unknown if Pilon has acquired an attorney. The case is currently being investigated by the FBI and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is prosecuting the case.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jonathan Franklin
Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.

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