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Politics

Maryland official fired for social media posts defends actions, says he will pursue legal options

The Maryland official fired over the weekend for posting “divisive” memes, statements and images on social media — including several supportive of the Kenosha, Wisconsin, shooting suspect — said he does not regret his actions and will seek all possible legal remedies for his termination.

At a Monday news conference held outside a West Baltimore elementary school, Arthur “Mac” Love IV, the former deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives, said he stands by his constitutional rights to freedom of speech and should not have been penalized for expressing his opinion online.

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At issue is Love’s sharing of several posts, both on his personal page and in a Maryland Facebook group about politics, sympathizing with the Kenosha shooting suspect, who is accused of killing two people and injuring another amid unrest at a protest held in support of 29-year-old Jacob Blake, whom Kenosha police shot seven times in front of his children Aug. 23.

Love reposted pictures that appear to show the shooting suspect, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, cleaning graffiti. The original poster wrote: “I’m grateful that conservatives are rallying behind this kid. He genuinely seems like a good person.” It goes on to denigrate the two men Rittenhouse is charged with killing.

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One meme shows a photo of people marching with the words, “Defund the police! We can police our own communities.” The next photo shows Rittenhouse carrying his gun with the words “policed his community.”

Another meme calls one of the Kenosha shooting victims a “deceased terrorist.”

Other photos and memes posted or recirculated by Love seem to express support for police brutality (”Don’t be a thug if you can’t take a slug!”) and denouncing “pedophilia BS” from “the left” in reference to a children’s cartoon with a bisexual lead character.

Love, whose former office oversees the state’s ethnic and cultural commissions, community service programs and religious outreach, said the handling of his termination stands in contrast to Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot’s defense of his chief of staff, who published a Facebook post in April that mocked people who defied stay-at-home orders governors imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus but kept his job.

“We should be responsible for our own actions, but within the government, there should be some consistencies across agencies and departments,” Love said. “I wish someone would explain why someone would call for the death of Marylanders and keep a job, but calling for due process ... gets you fired.”

Love’s position on his firing reflects part of a national debate taking place across the United States over the power of “cancel culture,” or the termination of people in powerful positions who have been called out and condemned for their actions, words and behaviors. Speakers at last week’s Republican National Convention pushed the argument that Democrats in power would strip the U.S. of freedoms if Joe Biden defeats President Trump in November’s general election.

Echoing this sentiment, Gary Collins, a spokesperson for Love, said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan “should be ashamed” of Love’s firing.

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“Clearly [Hogan] wishes to be an authoritarian dictator than to actually allow people to have freedom of speech on their own time on their own private social media accounts,” Collins said. “Mr. Love believes in due process, something that ironically enough, he didn’t experience.”

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Collins also said “personnel issues” in Hogan’s office led to Love’s firing, referring indirectly to recent revelations that the Republican governor’s former chief of staff received a six-figure severance payment from his last job at the Maryland Environmental Service when he transitioned to his role in June.

Representatives from Hogan’s office declined to comment, and representatives from the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives did not respond to requests for comment.

On Saturday, Steve McAdams, executive director of the Governor’s Office on Community Initiatives, said in a statement: “These divisive images and statements are inconsistent with the mission and core values of the Office of Community Initiatives. Earlier today, I relieved this employee of his duties. Kevin Craft, administrative director of the Governor’s Commission on African Affairs, will assume these duties effective immediately.”

Shareese Churchill, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Saturday: “These posts are obviously totally inappropriate. We fully support the immediate actions taken by Director McAdams to address this matter.”

Love said he was not formally notified of his firing until Sunday.

Other Marylanders and friends of Love’s spoke at Monday’s news conference, including Republican nominee for Baltimore City Council president Jovani Patterson; Dr. Surinder Gill, a community organizer for the Sikh community in Maryland; and Tim Kingston, a former Queen Anne’s County Republican Central Committee member. All the speakers denounced Love’s firing as an abrasion of free speech and defended his character.


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