A Maryland official who oversaw the state’s commission on Black history is out of a job after he posted memes that appeared to show support for the teen gunman who allegedly killed two men during unrest that followed a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Arthur Love IV, the deputy director for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s Office of Community Initiatives (GOCI), was fired for posting the memes on a private Facebook account, Steven McAdams, the executive director for the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives, said.
The images referenced 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, the white teenager who allegedly killed the men amid protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man.
The images appeared on a Facebook account believed to belong to the staffer named “Mac Love,” according to Maryland Matters, an independent news site focusing on Maryland government and politics, its website says.
CNN was unable to independently view the posts, but at a news conference on Monday Gary Collins, a spokesman for Love, called one “just a tongue-in-cheek meme,” saying that any claims of racial bias or hate were categorically unfounded.
One of the images that Love allegedly posted shows protesters with the caption: “Defund the police! We can police our own communities…” Below that was an image of Rittenhouse with the caption: ” … policed his community…”
“These divisive images and statements are inconsistent with the mission and core values of the Office of Community Initiatives,” said McAdams. “Earlier today, I relieved this employee of his duties. Kevin Craft, administrative director of the Governor’s Commission on African Affairs, will assume these duties effective immediately,” McAdams said.
Del. Eric Luedtke, a Montgomery County Democrat, had earlier called for Love’s termination and posted a screenshot on Twitter of one of the memes that Love supposedly posted. It shows a police officer putting two thumbs up along with this caption: “Dont Be A Thug If You Cant Take A Slug!”
“These posts are obviously totally inappropriate,” said Shareese Churchill, spokeswoman for the Governor. “We fully support the immediate actions taken by Director McAdams to address this matter.”
Collins told CNN that Love “disputes what’s being alluded regarding the memes.”
“Mr. Love believes he was unfairly terminated from his public servant career without the Hogan administration grasping what even occurred,” Collins said in a statement.
“Mr. Love has dedicated his life to public service for unprivileged communities throughout Maryland and the nation. Any claims of racial bias or any sort of hate are categorically unfounded. Mr. Love merely suggested on his private social media account, on his own time, that perhaps the nation should not cast immediate judgment on Kyle Rittenhouse before the court of law renders a decision,” he said.
During the Monday news conference, Collins also criticized Governor Hogan’s “hastened” leadership style, saying “clearly, he wishes to be an authoritarian dictator, than to actually allow people the freedom of speech on their own time, on their own private social media accounts.”
Rittenhouse was arrested and charged with first-degree intentional homicide and other charges during a shooting incident that left two people dead and another seriously injured, police said. John Pierce, Rittenhouse’s attorney, said to Tucker Carlson on Fox News that he was defending himself in Kenosha on the night he allegedly killed the two people and injured another.
Blake is a Black man from Kenosha who was shot by the police in the back seven times and paralyzed as a result.