As Triad news station WFMY live-streamed a third day of anti-police violence protests in downtown Greensboro Monday, a number of comments jumped out at those watching the Facebook feed.
“I’m about to get in my car and drive over some of these people,” wrote a man identifying himself as Benjamin Benelli Roberts of Thomasville.
“My shotgun is ready to start shooting,” he also wrote.
Roberts was making the threats from his Facebook account, the privacy settings of which allow anyone to see his information. The page includes right-wing political rhetoric, images of Confederate flags, Roberts posing with various guns and Trump 2020 signs.
It didn’t take long for locals to begin circulating his photo in connection with the comments and note that he works for Miraje Reconstruction & Development.
The Greensboro company counts among its clients N.C. A&T, UNC-Greensboro, North Carolina State University, Duke University, Wake Forest University, Guilford County and the triad cities of Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point.
Once aware of Roberts’ online threats, the company immediately began investigating. On Tuesday, Miraje confirmed it has terminated Roberts’ employment.
“This has all happened very fast and we are dealing with it swiftly,” said Dale Kitchell, director of human resources for Miraje. “This does not reflect our company in any way, shape or form and is disturbing to the owner and general manager.”
The company was “horrified” by the incident, Kitchell said.
Roberts couldn’t be reached Tuesday afternoon for comment.[Update: Roberts returned a Facebook message from N.C. Policy Watch Tuesday evening at just after 9 p.m. “I am sorry for what I said and you will never hear those threats again,” Roberts wrote.]
Although Roberts did not physically harm anyone, his violent rhetoric prompted Greensboro police to investigate his threats.
The incident has a particularly disturbing historical resonance in Greensboro, where in 1979 Ku Klux Klansmen and American Nazi Party members shot and killed five Communist Workers Party members participating in an anti-racist protest. The incident, now known as The Greensboro Massacre, is still a shameful and divisive chapter in the city’s history.
The protesters Roberts threatened to shoot and run over with his car were demonstrating on the same block as the Woolworth’s building where, in 1960, N.C. A&T students staged a sit-in protest that ignited a national movement. The building is now home to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, which houses a replica of the whites-only lunch counter at which the protest began.