A county Republican leader in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is under fire for seeming to suggest in his social media posts there should be a Kent State type of crackdown on violent protests like the one that erupted at a university in California last week.
But in an interview Sunday with the Free Press, Dan Adamini, the secretary of the Marquette County Republican Party, said he apologizes, supports peace and was merely trying to prevent further violence and hatred.
The Marquette resident said that he has received death threats and been harassed by people outraged over his remarks that refer to the 1970 shooting deaths of four students at Kent State University in Ohio by the Ohio National Guard. Nine other students were wounded in what many consider a turning point in public opinion about the Vietnam War.
Adamini, 56, tweeted Thursday after violent disturbances at the University of California-Berkeley shut down plans for a senior editor at the far-right website Breitbart to speak on campus.
“Violent protesters who shut down free speech? Time for another Kent State perhaps. One bullet stops a lot of thuggery,” Adamini tweeted.
In a separate Facebook post, Adamini wrote: “I’m thinking that another Kent State might be the only solution … They do it because they know there are no consequences yet.”
Republican, Democratic and Kent State University officials slammed Adamini’s remarks, saying they were inappropriate.
“Dan spoke for himself, not on behalf of the party,” said Sarah Anderson, communications director for the Michigan Republican Party. “It was insensitive and out of line. He has, rightfully, apologized.”
Speaking to the Free Press, the GOP official and host of the conservative radio show “In the Right Mind” on Sunday said his comments have been misinterpreted. He said he’s trying to stop violence, not cause it.
“It was stupid, it was poorly done,” Adamini said of his posts on Twitter and Facebook. “But my goal was to stop the violence by protesters, not commit violence against protesters.”
“The point I was trying to make, admittedly I did it very poorly … was that the violence is really getting out of hand, and much like in the 1960s, the violence created an atmosphere where something terrible and tragic like Kent State could happen.”
“I’d like to see the violence stop before we have a tragedy.”
At the University of California, some protesters caused $100,000 worth of damage and physically attacked some supporters of ultraconservative writer and editor Milo Yiannopoulos, according to a CNN report. Yiannopoulos, who was banned from Twitter last year after harassing an actress, has often made what critics say are bigoted statements.
“We could be headed toward another Kent State tragedy if we don’t get a handle on the violence,” Adamini said. “It sounds like I was calling for violence, but I was actually trying to call for an end to the violence. … Some are saying I’m calling for the death of innocent protesters, but nothing could be further from the truth.”
Adamini said that the Kent State shootings, which he said were tragic, came about after a couple of days of violence by antiwar agitators targeting police and stores. The reaction of the National Guard, he said, has to be understood in that context.
“There are paid agitators who continue to plague this country,” Adamini told the Free Press. He said that protesters need to restrain from committing violent acts that can then lead to violent reactions from authorities that end up targeting innocent people.
In a statement, Kent State University called Adamini’s tweet “abhorrent.”
”May 4, 1970, was a watershed moment for the country and especially the Kent State University family,” read the statement from Kent State. “We lost four students that day while nine others were wounded and countless others were changed forever. This abhorrent post is in poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still pains the Kent State community today. We invite the person who wrote this statement to tour our campus and our May 4 Visitors Center, which opened four years ago, to gain perspective on what happened 47 years ago and apply its meaning to the future.”
Adamini’s comments drew a sharp response from the Democratic Party and were widely criticized by liberals on social media.
“The statements made … on social media by Dan Adamini are sickening, inhuman and indefensible,” Brandon Dillon, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, said in a statement. “There is no ambiguity or alternative interpretation. To call for ‘another Kent State’ and declare that ‘one bullet stops a lot of thuggery’ is to clearly and openly advocate for the murder of unarmed college students, simply because they don’t share his beliefs or point of view.”
Adamini shut down his Twitter and Facebook pages after receiving many complaints and threats. He said that using Twitter or Facebook to express his views on this was not a good idea.
“I never should have tried to say that in 140 characters or in a Facebook post,” he said.
He said that some have asked advertisers on his radio show to end their support.
“My advertisers are being harassed.”
He stresses that “I was not speaking on behalf of the GOP” and he hopes that both sides in the U.S. can learn to disagree without being violent.
“We’ve got too much hate in the world,” he said. “The hatred really has to stop. I’m sorry I played a role in the spawning of hatred.”