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Lansing Fire Department Terminates BLM Activist, He Alleges Retaliation

20190501-100939-LYNN.jpg
Courtesy, Michael Lynn Jr.
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Michael Lynn Jr. takes photo wearing his Lansing Fire Department uniform

This week, the Lansing Fire Department fired an employee who is also the co-leader of Black Lives Matter Lansing.

 

Activist Michael Lynn Jr. has been a prominent critic of city officials including Lansing Mayor Andy Schor and Police Chief Daryl Green.

Last month, Lynn shared the professional cell phone number of Chief Green following a controversial Facebook post. That led to a disciplinary hearing with the city which culminated in his firing.

WKAR's Weekend Edition host, Michelle Jokisch Polo recently spoke with Michael Lynn Jr.

She joined WKAR's All Things Considered host Sophia Saliby to talk about what led up to Lynn's firing.

Interview Highlights

On The City Says Lynn Was Fired From The Fire Department

They said that he had violated city policy because he shared the personal work cell phone number of Chief Daryl Green in a time that the city is under a state of emergency. We've seen, increasing of threats against city officials just like we saw earlier last year towards Governor Gretchen Whitmer. And the city said that, by him sharing the phone number, he put the chief of police at risk, the Lansing Police Department at risk as well as the community. This forced the city to change Green's number because they were getting so many calls from the community about this Facebook post. Following that, the city sent out a letter to Lynn telling him that he had violated the Lansing Ethics Ordinance and the city's social media policy and that he could be fired.

On Why The City of Lansing Believes Lynn's Actions Are A Public Safety Concern

According to the termination letter, the city of Lansing stated that Lynn is the driving force behind the community being upset with the Lansing Police Department and called his actions harrassment.

On Why Lynn Believes The City Of Lansing Is Retaliating Against Him, In His Words

I've been very vocal about the discriminatory behaviors within the Fire Department and within the city offices. I've advocated for other people who have been going through it. I've been very vocal and anytime you're vocal against a rotten system or a systemically racist system, they try to silence you.

 
Interview Transcript

Sophia Saliby: This is All Things Considered on WKAR, I'm Sophia Saliby.

This week, the Lansing Fire Department fired an employee who was also the co-leader of Black Lives Matter Lansing. Activist, Michael Lynn Jr. has been a prominent critic of city officials including Lansing Mayor Andy Schor and Police Chief Daryl Green.

Last month, Lynn shared the professional cell phone number of Chief Green following a controversial Facebook post by the department. That led to a disciplinary hearing with the city.

WKAR's Michelle Jokisch Polo recently spoke with Michael Lynn Jr. and she's here with me today to talk about what led up to Lynn's firing.

First, can you give us a little background on who Michael Lynn Jr. is and what his relationship with the city is?

Michelle Jokisch Polo: So, Michael Lynn Jr. is a Black Lives Matter activist. He's the co-leader of the Lansing chapter, and he's been a vocal critic of Mayor Andy Schor for the last, you know, year and a half. And before that, he was working for the Lansing Fire Department since 2014, but has been on paid leave since last May after he filed a lawsuit against the department alleging racism in the environment and that the racism there caused him PTSD.

Saliby: Now, Lynn's termination from this job is a recent development unrelated to that lawsuit. Can you break down what happened?

Jokisch Polo: Earlier in January, this past January, there was a Facebook post from the Lansing Police Department and in that Facebook post, the LPD was honoring the killing of a police dog that happened in 1999; and this post led to Michael Lynn Jr. to critique the city for honoring the death of the dog, but not the death of Aldric McKinstry Jr. He was also a friend of Michael Lynn, who was killed that same day. He was a Black 18-year-old, and he died that night at the same time that the dog did. And that prompted Lynn to call out the Lansing Police Department. He asked the public to give the chief a call letting him know how they felt about the department's post about the dog and this is what he had to say about it:

So at that point in time, I went on my Facebook, and I shared the phone number that I texted the chief on and told people, "Chief Green has said to us many times over, hold him accountable. He likes to be held accountable by the community." So, this is a time when we need to hold him accountable to take this post down.

Saliby: The city did end up taking down that Facebook post and apologizing for it. But what has the city said about what Lynn did posting Chief Green's cell phone number?

Jokisch Polo: Well, you know, they said that he had violated city policy because he shared the personal work cell phone number of Chief Daryl in a time that the city is under a state of emergency. And we've seen, you know, increasing of threats against city officials just like we saw earlier last year towards Governor Gretchen Whitmer. And so, the city said that by him sharing the phone number, he put the chief of police at risk, the Lansing Police Department at risk, as well as the community.

This forced the city to change Green's number because they were getting so many calls from the community about this Facebook post. And after that, they sent out a letter to Lynn telling him that he had violated the Lansing Ethics Ordinance and the city's social media policy and that he could be fired.

Later, a disciplinary hearing was initiated by HR and that hearing happened on Friday. And the results of that hearing came out on Tuesday.And in that, Lynn was terminated.

Saliby: What did the city say the reason was for firing him beyond what you kind of described there that there was some public safety issues with sharing that number?

Jokisch Polo: I've reached out to the city but I haven't heard back yet. But according to the termination letter Lynn shared with the Lansing State Journal, they stated that Lynn is the driving force behind the community being upset with the Lansing Police Department. They called Lynn's actions harassment. Lynn though, on the other hand, calls [their actions] retaliation and this is what he had to say about that:

Because I've been very vocal about the discriminatory behaviors within the fire department and within the city offices. I've advocated for other people who have been going through it. I've been very vocal. And you know, anytime you're vocal against a rotten system or a systemically racist system, they try to silence you.

Jokisch Polo: The city hasn't yet responded to the allegations of retaliation. 

Saliby: Michelle, in these last 30 seconds, what's next with all of this [and] Lynn's future?

Jokisch Polo: He's continuing to pursue the lawsuit against the city of Lansing, and he will also be pursuing additional litigation tied to how he was terminated. In addition to that, he said he will continue his activism and that his life has not changed much because he hasn't been working for the fire department since last May.

Saliby: Michelle Jokisch Polo is a WKAR Reporter and our Weekend Edition host. Thank you for being here.

Jokisch Polo: Thanks for having me. 

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