ITHACA, NY – We Are Seneca lake, an environmental activist group, reported a Schuyler County legislator to multiple authorities after he made a Facebook post they call “reckless and offensive.”

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The post in question was posted on November 20 as a response to an image posted by the group that showed a number of people at an activist event. Legislator Philip C. Barnes, commented on the post, writing, “Remember deer season starts Saturday.”

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We Are Seneca Lake took the message to be a warning or a “veiled incitement to others to commit violence against us,” the group said in a statement.

They went on to say, “To joke on social media about climate protesters meeting with stray bullets… just days after events in Paris – was, to us, reckless and offensive.”

Asked to explain his remarks, Barnes posted additional comments whose intent the group said was “unclear.” The group went on to ban Barnes from further posts, and filed a number of complaints with different groups and agencies, from Facebook to Watkins Glen Police to the FBI.

We Are Seneca Lake further demanded an apology from Barnes and asked the Schuyler County legislature to censure him.

On a November 24 meeting of the Schuyler County legislature, the activist group addressed Barnes during the public comment period, asking his explanation.

Barnes offered his explanation to his fellow legislators and the group’s representatives. He prefaced by noting, “This has gone to the FBI. I’ve met with the FBI. I’ve been exonerated by the FBI.”

Barnes then explained in great detail, that he had meant to post that message to his brother, as a warning to be careful while walking his new dog. Further messages, including a conversation about temporarily housing Syrian refugees in Guantanamo Bay to allow time to “vet them before we let them out around the country,” he said, were meant to be private conversations.

“Now if you folks want to continue, I will set up appointments for you to be deposed, and if anybody has any mental anguish over this… then I want their doctors to post depositions too. And we’ll go from there,” he said.

The legislature was unconvinced that they bore any responsibility to censure Barnes, as he was not acting in his capacity as legislator while making the posts.

Legislator Barbara Halpin said, “As far as I’m concerned, you put things on social media, things are gonna happen. And if you use social media, you better realize that… Frankly, I think the whole world is too afraid of too many things these days.”

Ultimately, the legislature felt it had been established that there was no credible threat. The three We Are Seneca Lake representatives in attendance said they “did not feel reassured,” but would report back what happened at the meeting.

According to their newsletter, the group’s parting shot was this: calling on attendees of the November 29 Global Climate March in Watkins Glen to wear hunter’s orange, “in order to aid him and any other deranged downtown deer hunters from mistaking us for venison on the hoof.”

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.