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Acts of intimidation stir concern on the Gunflint Trail, Grand Marais

Multiple acts of theft and intimidation are being reported in parts of Cook County widely recognized as being safe havens for tourists and summer fun.

WTIP was provided information today (July 15) that a number of Black Lives Matter signs throughout the county – including one on the Gunflint Trail and another near the Arrowhead Trail – were either stolen or destroyed recently. An image of an older couple in a pink SUV near the Mid-Gunflint Trail area shows them attempting to remove a Black Lives Matter sign from the popular scenic byway.

Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen sent WTIP a statement in response to the incidents. He wrote, in part: “We have experienced some calls for service regarding the damage and removal of Black Lives Matter signs in Cook County. Please know that it is a crime to damage the property of another, and when we receive these calls, we will investigate them, and charges may follow if suspects are identified. Although you may not agree with others’ choices or views, I am asking for your respect in recognizing that everyone has the freedom of expression in this country. Everyone also has the right to display their property in legal methods without the fear of it being destroyed.”

WTIP reached out to the individuals allegedly involved in damaging the Black Lives Matter sign on the Gunflint Trail. Their identities were made public by a business on the Gunflint Trail. When contacted, a man told a WTIP news reporter “the person was not available” to comment.

In related news, WTIP was also sent a photo today from a Grand Marais resident who said masks were being thrown into people’s lawns in town that were emblazoned with derogatory language written on them (see photo in slideshow by clicking the image accompanying this story). According to the report, a local resident picked up more than 30 masks with threatening and intimidating language scrawled on them. The masks were allegedly tossed onto lawns near the local public school and down a main street in Grand Marais.

Regarding masks in Cook County, Eliasen wrote: “This is a personal choice in public places. This is also a freedom that citizens should enjoy without the fear of being ostracized or berated for doing so. Whatever your choice may be regarding wearing masks, please respect others’ decisions who have decided a different path than your own.”

UPDATE: WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke July 16 with Eliasen for an update on this story.The audio to their conversation is posted below.