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Man who threatened Black Lives Matter supporters pleads guilty to hate crime charges

Counter-protesters carrying Black Lives Matter flags walk past a group of Trump supporters at the Michigan State Capitol building in November 2020 in Lansing, Mich.
John Moore
Getty Images
Counter-protesters carrying Black Lives Matter flags walk past a group of Trump supporters at the Michigan State Capitol building in November 2020 in Lansing, Mich.

A Michigan man has pleaded guilty to hate crime charges after he intimidated supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement by leaving handwritten notes and nooses around his community, the Department of Justice said in a news release.

Kenneth Pilon, 61, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal district court to two charges of hate crimes. Pilon specifically pleaded guilty to "willfully intimidating and attempting to intimidate citizens from engaging in lawful speech and protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement" dating back to June and July 2020, according to officials.

Additionally, Pilon pleaded guilty to placing a noose inside a vehicle with an attached note reading: "An accessory to be worn with your 'BLM' t-shirt. Happy protesting!"

Pilon will be sentenced on March 23, according to officials.

In a news release from the Department of Justice, Pilon called nine Starbucks stores across Michigan, telling workers who answered his calls to tell any employees wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts that "the only good n***er is a dead n***er."

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

From June to July 2020, authorities say Pilon left four nooses in parking lots across Saginaw, Mich. with attached notes. Authorities say a fifth one was found inside a 7-Eleven in a beverage cooler.

"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," according to a previous criminal complaint filed in April.

U.S. Attorney Dawn N. Ison said that Pilon's actions were "threatening to an entire community."

"We hope this conviction sends the message that this type of activity is criminal, and that we will take the necessary action to protect the people of our district," Ison said.

Since the protests following the murder of George Floyd, threats against Black Lives Matter protesters have become far too common.

Earlier this year, several Maryland police officers were caught talking via text message about killing Black Lives Matter protesters.

In a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in Maryland in March, a Black police officer alleged that several Maryland-National Capital Park Police officers made frequent comments through text messages that "talked about murdering Black Lives Matter protesters," NBC News reported.

In 2020, a Utah man was caught on video coughing on Black Lives Matter protesters and making threats to the administrator of a Facebook page, according to Salt Lake City TV station Fox 13. The suspect, Robert Brissette, 57, was arrested and booked on charges related to the threat of violence and electronic communication harassment, Fox 13 reported.

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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