Lincoln County Sheriff John Cottle, left, doesn't seem too sympathetic to concerns about federal immigration policies.
Earlier this week, a coalition of activists called for a protest at the jail in Troy, Missouri, used to house federal immigration detainees
. Yesterday, the county office managing the jail sniped back with an odd demand: Prove you're good people by purchasing our sno cones.
In a press release posted to the department's Facebook page
, Lincoln County Sheriff John Cottle set off a firestorm.
In the press release, the sheriff seemed to separate "our good citizens" who might counter-protest from those concerned about President Trump's immigration policy — a.k.a. "this group." He also suggested the only way the protesters could show they were intended to "peacefully protest" was to "put your money where your mouth is by supporting children by purchasing sno cones with a donation." Say what?
A little background: The Lincoln County jail in Troy, which is about an hour's drive from downtown St. Louis, has long had an "inter-government service agreement" with the feds, allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to house detainees in its jail en route to other locations. In 2015, that included just 64 detainees.
However, with President Trump ramping up immigration enforcement, that number has surely escalated — even as many Americans have taken to the streets
(and social media) to denounce his get-tough policies. Yesterday, Trump had to back down from a policy that separated kids from their parents so the parents could be prosecuted on misdemeanor charges.
It's the sheriff's office that runs the jail now facing pushback for collaborating with policies many believe are unjust. (The protest, scheduled for June 30, is called "Shut Down ICE! Humans Stand Up in Solidarity!
") And Cottle's snarky "press release" in response seemed to pour gasoline on the fire.
The press release said, in part:
Because of the love for children by the “Expect Us” group, the Sheriff’s Office will provide snow cones during the event. Protestors can make a small monetary donation for each snow cone that will directly support the Sheriff’s Office annual youth summer camp. It is a win for all documented and undocumented children and 100% of the donations will go towards the camp.
In addition, Sheriff Cottle encourages the Lincoln County public not to show up on the same day to counter protest. The Sheriff’s Office does not want to see a clash between our good citizens and this group.
Lastly, Sheriff Cottle issues a challenge to the potential protestors: Prove you are here to peacefully protest and put your money where your mouth is by supporting children by purchasing snow cones with a donation.
Beyond the bizarre leap in logic — if you care about immigrant kids, you have to support a youth summer camp run by a rural Missouri sheriff's office — the tone rubbed many the wrong way.
"I have a real problem with your phrase 'between our good citizens and 'this group,'" one woman wrote. "Are you assuming that people who don't support Trump's heinous treatment of children and immigrants are not 'good people'?"
"Are you kidding me, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office?" another wrote. "You don’t want to see a clash between our good citizens and this group?' Are these protesters not good citizens'?"
Based on Cottle's track record, however, we can't help but assume the tone was intentional. The Republican sheriff previously blasted President Obama for "his attacks on our Constitution."
He's also faced a number of sex discrimination claims in federal court
Beyond that, he might have been wise to spend more time on policing and less time on federal politics — Cottle's department is being sued by Russell Faria
, whom a judge found "not guilty" in the murder of his wife Betsy. A growing body of evidence suggests the killer was likely instead Betsy Faria's friend Pamela Hupp.
Now, in fairness, Faria was arrested and charged in 2011, before Cottle took office. But his office, along with county prosecutors, continued to double-down on Faria even after the appeals court ordered a new trial, taking the case to trial a second time in November 2015. (He was found not guilty.)
It wasn't until Hupp shot and killed another man, in 2016, that she was charged with murder, and that was in a different county, one apparently swifter to connect the dots. But hey, who has time for detective work when you have sno cones to sell?
See the entire post from the department below.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story referred incorrectly to the not guilty verdict rendered to Russ Faria. It was a judge that found him not guilty, not a jury. We regret the error.
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