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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Michigan GOP official: Shut down ‘by force’ public library with LGBTQ books

interior. Patmos Library
Already defunded by township taxpayers, the Patmos Library in Ottawa County received what officials viewed as a threat calling on the library to be shut down “by force” over LGBTQ-themed books. (Bridge file photo)
  • A GOP congressional district chair suggested online it was “time to shut down … by force’ a public library
  • Patmos Library has been the center of a controversy over its refusal to remove LGBTQ-themed graphic novels
  • Library officials filed a complaint about the comment to the Ottawa County Sheriff’s office

A Michigan Republican congressional district chair suggested on social media that a public library embroiled in a controversy over LGBTQ-themed books should be “shut down...by force.”

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s office confirmed to Bridge Michigan on Thursday that the office is investigating an allegation that the Patmos Library in Jamestown Township was threatened last week by Republican 11th Congressional District Chair Shane Trejo on Facebook.

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The train depot-themed library has received national attention since residents twice this year voted to defund their public library in a fight over graphic novels that some opponents liken to pornography or “grooming” children to be sexually assaulted.

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Library officials have declined to remove the books, but did move one of the books behind the counter.

By rejecting the millage requests, residents took away about 84 percent of the library’s $245,000 annual budget. Fundraising campaigns and a recent $100,000 donation by an Ottawa County family have given the library enough funds to stay open through early 2025.

Trejo, who lives more than 100 miles away from Patmos Library on the east side of the state, wrote on Facebook it is “Time to shut down the library by force. And then perhaps charge the people writing these checks as accessories for child abuse.”

facebook comment
Shane Trejo, under a Facebook account of “Sean Trujillo (Shane),” suggested donors to the Patmos Library should be charged “as accessories for child abuse.”

The comments were made from a Facebook account under the name “Sean Trujillo (also Shane).” The account identifies the owner of the account as “chairman at Michigan’s 11th Congressional District Republican Committee.”

Marcia Frobish, a board member at the library, told Bridge she filed a report with the sheriff’s office Thursday saying the remarks raised concerns for the safety of library employees and that officials wanted to document the online statement “in case something happened.”

An officer at the sheriff’s department confirmed a report had been filed and that the allegation was being investigated.

Despite controversy over the books, the online suggestion to take over the library by force is the first perceived threat the library or its staff has received, Frobish said, adding that the library recently purchased a security system in response to the year-long debate, which will be installed soon. 

In an emailed response to a request for comment, Trejo wrote Bridge that the  “state should shut down this library and any library that has pornography books available for kids. It should not be allowed to exist on private funding or crowdsourced funding of any kind.”

The books under criticism by some community members are award-winning graphic novels that have LGBTQ themes. One of them, “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” includes drawings of sex acts; while the others depict same-sex relationships among teens.

Trejo wrote Bridge that his Facebook comment recommending the library be shut down “by force” meant “This must be shut down through the force of law immediately.”

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Trejo asked Bridge to refer to him as executive director of the Grand New Party PAC, although he is also the 11th Congressional District Republican Chairperson. Trejo recently described the Grand New Party PAC as a fundraising vehicle for “America First” candidates so they are not as dependent on established fundraising sources.  

Michigan GOP spokesperson Gustavo Portela told Bridge on Thursday that  the state party “will not be commenting” on the issue.

According to a 2021 Daily Beast article, Trejo once hosted a podcast with a  member of white supremacist Identity group Evropa. Trejo also praised white supremacists at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017 as “civil rights heroes.”

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