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Kalkaska

Abdul El-Sayed talks to a voter.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed made a campaign stop in Kalkaska Tuesday night, where he spent an hour speaking to a group of about 25 people. Kalkaska made national news this summer for the Islamophobic views of its' village president, Jeff Sieting. El-Sayed is Muslim, and attendees were happy that he still chose to visit Kalkaska. Danielle Seabolt is the Chair of the Kalkaska County Democrats, who hosted El-Sayed:

Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Kalkaskans aren't enjoying the newfound national media attention they've attracted the last few weeks, thanks to village president Jeff Sieting's Islamophobic, racist and transphobic Facebook posts.

Sieting, for his part, has not backed down from his statements. Just the opposite: he's given media interviews defending posts like "Kill them all - every last one" about Muslims and "Arm yourself and thin the heard" in regards to Black Lives Matter.

On Monday night, residents packed a village meeting to share a range of opinions and frustrations, from concern for the town's reputation, to support of Sieting, to local business owners saying they've already suffered losses due to negative press about the town.

Kaye Lafond

Controversy and protest erupted in the small Northern Michigan village of Kalkaska last week, centering on anti-Muslim Facebook posts written and shared by village President Jeff Sieting.

Last Friday, about 100 protestors gathered to demand Sieting's resignation.

a banner that says redneck revolt and we stand with you in arabic
Courtesy of Timothy Grey

A group called Redneck Revolt was in Kalkaska last Friday protesting the posts on Village President Jeff Sieting’s Facebook page.

Redneck Revolt is an organization whose goal is “to provide community defense for areas around this country at this time that are experiencing any kind of racial-based, misogynist-based, LGBTQ-based aggression and hate actions,” said Timothy Grey with Redneck Revolt.

A very large leather-vested man with a bald head and full beard gets in the face of a much smaller man, also bald, wearing glasses and a red handkerchief around his neck.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

A northern Michigan town is divided over a local official's Islamophobic Facebook posts.

Jeff Sieting is the village president of Kalkaska.

He's come under fire for a series of Facebook posts that call for violence against Muslims and other minority groups.

About 100 protestors calling for Sieting’s removal gathered in downtown Kalkaska last night.

U of M Michigan Innocence Clinic

After serving 16 years for a crime he didn’t commit, Jamie Lee Peterson walked away from a courtroom in Kalkaska today a free man.

Peterson was convicted of the 1996 rape and murder of Geraldine Montgomery. He was sentenced to life in prison two years later. 

Prosecutors dropped the rape and murder charges against Peterson after he was cleared by new DNA evidence. The DNA evidence did implicate another man in the murder. He’s awaiting trial. 

Michigan Department of Corrections

Attorneys today will ask for a new trial for a man convicted of a 1996 rape and murder in Kalkaska.

They say new evidence raises serious doubts about the man’s guilt.

Jamie Lee Peterson is serving a life sentence for the 1996 murder of Geraldine Montgomery. He did confess to the crime, but he later recanted.

Last year, authorities arrested another man after DNA evidence connected him to the crime.

Caitlin Plummer is with the Michigan Innocence Clinic. She says the limits of DNA testing at the time were used by prosecutors to sway jurors against Peterson.  

Kalkaska schools

No doubt, public schools in Michigan are struggling.

Around 400 students in the Buena Vista school district in Saginaw have been shut out after the district announced they couldn't make payroll.

And it was revealed yesterday that Pontiac schools are close to running out of money and might have to close their doors early.