Monday, November 16, 2015

Local peace marchers protest racist threats on social media, prosecutor's lenient charge against Michigan Tech suspect

By Michele Bourdieu

Michigan Tech students, faculty and staff and community members begin a peace march from campus to the Houghton County Courthouse Sunday night, Nov. 15. Marchers' signs protested recent threats on social media against the lives of black people. (Photos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated.)

HOUGHTON -- More than 200 Michigan Tech students, staff and community members turned out for a peace march Sunday night, Nov. 15, to make a statement against threats of violence made on social media against black people.

Marchers walk peacefully from the Michigan Tech campus to the Houghton County Courthouse Sunday night.

The student-organized and led march began at the Walker Arts and Humanities Building and continued through downtown Houghton to the Houghton County Courthouse, where candles were lit and a moment of silence was observed before the marchers headed back to campus.

Marchers hold a moment of silence in front of the Houghton County Courthouse.

On Friday a Michigan Tech student was charged with disturbing the peace in connection with a Thursday social media threat against the lives of black people. The threat was posted on Yik Yak, which allows users to post anonymously. Organizers of last night’s march say the intent was to protest the lack of stringent charges pursued by Houghton County Prosecutor Michael Makinen.

Marchers hold signs asking others to contact Prosecutor Michael Makinen and express objections to his charge of disturbing the peace as too lenient.

The suspect was arraigned today in 97th District Court, has been served with an interim suspension and is banned from campus, allowing the University to complete the investigation process.

Speakers address the large crowd of marchers in front of the Houghton County Courthouse Sunday night, Nov. 15. (Photo © and courtesy Miriam Pickens)

Emerald Gary of Detroit, a Michigan Tech student in the School of Business, was one of several student leaders who organized the march. She said concerned students hope the suspect will receive a more severe punishment.

"I don't think he should be allowed to return to Tech," Gary said.

She noted similar threats against black people in other universities, including the University of Missouri, allegedly resulted in more serious charges.

At Indiana University in Bloomington last Friday, Nov. 13, police were investigating a similar threat on Yik Yak.*

According to, "The Yik Yak messaging app is popular with college students because it lets users post quick, anonymous messages to others in the same geographic area."

The IndyStar article noted Yik Yak claims they cooperate with local authorities and may share information with law enforcement.

Concerning the threatening post by the Michigan Tech student, Michigan Tech President Glenn Mroz reported last Friday, "Yik Yak is cooperating with Michigan Tech Public Safety and Police Services to help us obtain information on this post."

Gary said she and other students believe the university has done its part in working with campus police and Houghton Police on this investigation, but the students' objection is the prosecutor's  initial charge of "disturbing the peace."

Makinen may possibly drop or change the charge, but so far his office has not replied to Michigan Tech on his intentions.

* See the Nov. 13, 2015, article, "IU investigates racist threat" on

No comments: