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Groups Discussion: Community members talk controversial political cartoon

The man who posted a controversial image on his group’s political page on Facebook got what he wanted — a conversation.

Michael Thompson is the president of the group East Lee County Republicans. He shared the image of a person urinating on the Black Live Matter organization logo recently on the group’s Facebook page. He maintained the point of the post was to serve as a conversation starter.

After seeing the WINK News story about the post, Cindy Banyai, the Democratic nominee for U.S. House Florida District 19, wanted to get the conversation going.

We mediated a conversation between Banyai and Thompson Tuesday as well and local activist W. Earl Sparrow regarding the post.

Thompson wants to make it crystal clear he posted the cartoon on his group’s political page, not because of anything happening locally, but because of what he says Black Lives Matter activists are doing in other parts of the United States.

“Their message has been diluted, been hijacked by people who want to cause chaos,” Thompson said. “They want to cause destruction, death even.”

Sparrow condemns violence and believes Thompson is focusing too much on a few violent people, ignoring the message of a lot peaceful ones.

“You are picking the worst to represent the majority,” Sparrow said. “If ‘Joe America’ wears a trump 2020 shirt and says, ‘We’re gonna kill all the black people,’ is that person a representative of the Trump organization?”

“You’re basically saying, ‘We are Black Lives Matter,’ but we’re not Black Lives Matter when it comes to burning, so you can’t have your cake and eat it too. I’m sorry you just can’t do it.”

“That’s not what it is,” Banyai said. “It’s the difference between being a part of an official organization and a movement.”

“You’re splitting hairs,” Thompson said.

The group agreed to disagree on that.

Then, it came down to the reason behind the protests — police treatment of black men and women in the U.S.

“Do you trust my lived experience over yours when it comes to that, stuff that you haven’t seen?” Sparrow asked Thompson.

“I guess, I mean if we’re talking being Black,” Thompson said. “Yeah, obviously I am not that.”

“So that’s the starting point,” Sparrow said. “You’ve got to listen.”

Thompson said he will listen but, for now, will not take down the cartoon.

Reporter:Sydney Persing
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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