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Michigan man arrested for Facebook post criticizing Gov. Snyder

A Michigan activist has been arrested for a post he made on Facebook regarding Gov. Rick Snyder’s response to the Flint water crisis. Authorities claim the man violated his probation by “threatening” the governor online, but the activist said he was calling for Snyder’s arrest.

The man was previously convicted of felony resisting police and misdemeanor trespassing in connection with a protest he conducted in 2013. He entered an oil pipeline that was under construction to replace one that spilled 834,000 gallons of bitumen into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. The man stayed inside the replacement pipeline for 10 hours to protest the expansion.

He was sentenced to a suspended jail sentence and probation. His probation officer recently viewed a Facebook the man posted in response to another post that said Gov. Snyder has hired public relation firms in response to the crisis, instead of trying to get the contamination fixed. The defendant’s message encouraged readers to “march in and take his a__ accross [sic] the street ... I have my torch, I got warm socks ...”

Prosecutors say the reference to taking Snyder “across the street” was a threat against the governor. But the defendant says he was calling for Snyder’s arrest for his handling of the crisis. An article about the arrest in notes that there is a police station across the street from the governor’s office in Lansing.

As for the reference to torches, the defendant said he was referring to citizens gathering to protest. A professor at Michigan State University told that the defendant appears to have a strong case that his Facebook posting was political speech protected by the First Amendment. She said the pitchfork reference was an “exaggeration” not meant to be taken literally.

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