Local group's tactics questioned in online racism crackdown

A St. Paul police sergeant was recently placed on administrative leave after he posted about running over Black Lives Matter demonstrators, and now, several activists are part of a local group on the lookout for other potential online abusers.

Racist Trolls Reparations Team insists they have a line of where commentary crosses into hate and racism and when they see public social media comments cross that line, they will make sure the user’s employer knows about it.

"Are you the social media police? No. No. No we're not [the social media police],” Morisette Grazzini says. “I would say we are the journalists. We are providing information. That is all we are doing."

Andrea Morisette Grazzini heads up the Racist Trolls Reparation Team, or RTRT. She describes her members as on the lookout for hateful trolls and language that might be construed to incite violence posted, often towards the Black Lives Matter movement. Morisette Grazzini then rattles off a letter to the employer with the posts attached and a gentle suggestion that someone else may be a better fit for the job.

Her group has sent out more than 60 of those letters in the last few months, with the group posting their alleged offenders on a publicly available database-style document.

“Freedom of speech ceases to become [that] when it's hate speech,” Morisette Grazzini says. “There are laws against hate speech."

One man on RTRT’s radar, whom Fox 9 agreed not to name publicly, says his employer recently received a letter from the group with a screengrab of one of his Facebook posts.

“It’s a wait and see at this point where I have my job in a couple of weeks or not,” He told Fox 9.

The man insists he isn’t racist, but acknowledges he wrote a short public Facebook post when Back Lives Matter announced their upcoming efforts to peacefully shut down the popular Crashed Ice event in St. Paul.

"I did make a comment on Facebook,” He says. “14 key strokes that changed my life. I regret it today. Had they asked to remove it or told me they were unhappy, there are a lot of ways this could be resolved without immediately going after somebody's job."

Morisette Grazzini claims her group often does try to resolve it with the commenter, but that that only works a fraction of the time.

Fox 9 talked to employment attorney Clayton Halunen on Friday about whether contacting employers poses any legal issues in a battle over freedom of speech & perceived racism.

“Does that mean then that the employer has to monitor social media of employees about their feelings towards Muslims, gays or Jewish employees? Where does it stop?” Halunen said.

She estimates that RTRT’s efforts over the last couple months has resulted in between five and 10 firings, a number Fox 9 has not independently confirmed.

She explained that they ramped up their efforts soon after several Black Lives Matter demonstrators were shot outside the 4th Precinct occupation last November.

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