Recently, Up North Progressive visited the fine town of Kalkaska, Michigan, home of the really big fish – a welcome sign from childhood years signaling we were almost to Grandma’s house. The residents work hard to maintain a positive reputation as a community where people will want to visit as they travel up north. After the demonstrations that happened on June, 23, 2017, many residents of Kalkaska decided something had to be done to save their town from the negative exposure. They’ve organized to demand Jeff Sieting apologize for his hateful rhetoric against Muslims, resign from his office as Village President, and also asked the Village Council to put out an official statement that Sieting’s hate speech is not shared by the rest of the people of Kalkaska. So far, none of those things has happened.
In fact, Sieting defended the hate speech on his social media pages, claiming it was his first amendment right to share his opinions with the world. He’s right, except his hate speech has drawn so much negative attention, it’s reached state and national news. It’s also drawn public attention to Kalkaska from all over the country. Some are asking rude questions and leaving hateful comments on the social media pages of local businesses and village organizations.
A group of residents are now in the process of getting Sieting out of office. If he refuses to resign, a recall petition to remove him could happen in the future. Efforts to elect a new Village President in 2018 are also ongoing. There are efforts underway by the organizers of the Love Not Hate demonstration held in June to organize a boycott of the village.
Like many “up north” towns, Kalkaska relies on tourism to keep their economic base healthy. The village has many events taking place all year welcoming people to visit. It would be a shame to see businesses and residents suffer from negative publicity and attention because one self-centered bigot who insists his personal right to spout hate speech is more important than the wishes and concerns of the people he was elected to represent
The problem in Kalkaska has grown much bigger than one man’s right to display a sign supporting someone even more bigoted than he is, or using social media to share his irrational hate for anyone who isn’t white, male, or Christian to the detriment of an entire town. It’s time for Jeff Sieting to resign. Kalkaska deserves to repair and restore it’s reputation as an up north community with lots to offer.