Protesters plan rally over post on Shelby Twp. trustee's Facebook page

Christine MacDonald
The Detroit News

Shelby Township — A protest is planned Wednesday at township offices after a trustee last week allegedly shared what is being called a racist post mocking the recent removal of Aunt Jemima by the Quaker Oats brand. 

The post that appeared on Trustee John Vermeulen's Facebook page came less than two days after he and four other trustees suspended Shelby Township Police Chief Robert Shelide for 30 days and ordered cultural awareness training — rather than firing him — for posts disparaging Black Lives Matter protesters.

A post allegedly shared on Trustee John Vermeulen's Facebook page

Vermeulen's Facebook page showed a meme Thursday that depicted the white mascot of Quaker Oats and Aunt Jemima, which is a racial stereotype of a black woman, in bed together under the phrase "Cant we all just get along." Vermeulen wrote "ROTFLMAO. Talk about being 'politically incorrect.'" ROTFLMAO is short for rolling on the floor laughing my a-- off. 

Calls to Vermeulen from The Detroit News weren't returned. The post, which was first reported by WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) on Sunday, was removed from his Facebook page. 

"It's very sad people can take this as a joke," said The Rev. W.J. Rideout III, who supplied The News with screenshots of the post and is organizing Wednesday's 7 p.m. protest. "It's not a joke.

"How can he judge the police chief when he himself is even worse. ... He needs to resign."

Rideout said Wednesday's protest is also aimed at continuing to push for Shelide's removal, despite last week's vote 5-2 to suspend him. The 34-year law enforcement veteran made his remarks under a secret Twitter identity “Sheepdawg,” which included his opinions that some demonstrators were “vicious barbarians” and calling for "body bags" for "vicious subhumans."

Shelide also agreed with President Donald Trump that military action should be used to deal with rowdy protests and tweeted to the Brooklyn district attorney: “Shutup you libtard. Go bury your head."

Shelide apologized after his comments surfaced and said he wasn't a racist. He said he made the comments after seeing property damaged and police attacked during protests over the death of George Floyd.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said Tuesday that Vermeulen's post was unacceptable and combined with Shelide's online comments "is not what we need from public officials right now." Hackel said Shelide should have been fired. 

"There is no question," Hackel said. "This is why we have a problem in society. The people who are protesting against it are absolutely right. The behavior is allowed from the top down."

The suspension and cultural awareness training were not enough, Hackel said. 

"That's the stuff you teach new recruits in the academy ... not a chief of police," said Hackel, a former Macomb County sheriff. "To say that's what we are going to do now and that's going to change a man, I don't think so."

Brad Bates, a spokesman for Shelby Township, said he couldn't comment on the actions of Vermeulen because he is not employed by the township; he is an elected official. Calls to township Supervisor Richard Stathakis were not returned.