Possible voter intimidation planned

Gwen Swanigan, founder of the S.H.A.R.P. Foundation (Society Harmonizing Against Racial Profiling), speaks Tuesday in Benton Harbor about possible voter intimidation planned by the Proud Boys on Election Day next week.

BENTON HARBOR — Benton Harbor City Commissioner Ron Singleton said he’s concerned about possible voter intimidation happening on Election Day next week.

During a press conference Tuesday, he said he is taking an alleged online threat of the Proud Boys coming to Benton Harbor High School, one of the city’s polling places, very seriously.

“This election is too important to allow those types of things to interfere with what this country stands for – the pursuit of happiness, democracy,” he said during the press conference, which was sponsored by the S.H.A.R.P. Foundation (Society Harmonizing Against Racial Profiling). “People have gone across seas and fought wars, people have died for democracy.”

Singleton, a former police chief in the city, said the Proud Boys are a radical white supremacist hate group. He said he was especially concerned when President Donald Trump told the Proud Boys during a debate last month to “stand back and stand by.”

“People don’t want other folks to vote,” he said. “We don’t want to see that here in Benton Harbor.”

But he said another problem is that if there’s a police presence at the polls, some people won’t vote.

He said he will introduce a resolution during Monday’s city commission meeting asking Public Safety Director Dan McGinnis to announce that Election Day is a day of grace for people with nonviolent arrest warrants. That way people can vote without being afraid of being arrested, he said.

Elnora Gavin, a S.H.A.R.P. Foundation supporter, said that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the courts had limited access so people have been unable to take care of their business, such as tickets for seat belt violations.

Monday’s city commission meeting will be virtual at 7 p.m. Information on how to join can be found at www.bhcity.us.

Gwen Swanigan, founder of the S.H.A.R.P. Foundation, said there are 10 action steps people can take to defend all voices this election season. The first one, she said, is signing the “Election Day of Grace” petition at electiondayofgrace.com.

Other action steps include voting early by absentee ballot and working a shift at the polls as a volunteer citizen to guard against intimidation tactics through We the People MI, which has a Facebook page.

Swanigan said she was told of the online threat from the Proud Boys during a conference call by an attorney.

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege