USF police investigate potential online threat made against Muslim American speaker

Linda Sarsour, director of the Arab American Association of New York, poses for photos in front of a canvas painted by the association's youth group at its headquarters in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011. Sarsour is one of the civic and religious leaders who signed a letter declining an invitation from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to attend an interfaith breakfast in protest of recent revelations about the New York City Police Department's surveillance activities. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Muslim-American activist Linda Sarsour spoke to a packed house at USF Wednesday night on the subject of women’s rights.

Security was tight at the event, and many law enforcement officers could be seen throughout the venue, both inside and outside the auditorium at the Marshall Student Center.

Sarsour spoke briefly about Facebook comments made by a Wesley Chapel man who maintained he was a Florida Hospital employee. 

Several activists took to Twitter this weekend to call for the firing of the man behind the tweets, Wes Guiliano.

Activist Shaun King tweeted a screengrab of Giuliano’s post, which reads “Any idea which hotel she’s staying at, the make, model/color of the car she’s riding into campus in, which entrance/exits she will be using, and whether or not she will be wearing any body armor? Asking for a friend.”

King then demanded Giuliano be fired, saying “What your employee, Wes Giuliano, says here is an illegal death threat. This cannot be accepted.”

When asked about the investigation and possible criminal charges, USF Police released the following statement:

“The University of South Florida Police Department was notified of potential threats made on social media towards Linda Sarsou, a presenter for an event scheduled at the USF Marshall Center on Wednesday, October 11, 2017.

USF Police initiated an investigation into the matter and identified Wesley Giuliano as the individual who posted the comments. Mr. Giuliano voluntarily responded to the police department for an interview, admitted to making the posts, and cooperated fully with detectives. The investigation determined that there was no specific threat made and no evidence to support criminal charges.  Giuliano was issued a No Trespass Order from University property.

The safety and security of our students, faculty, staff and visitors is of paramount importance to the USF Police Department. We partner with campus entities in the managing of special events to ensure safety measures are in place.”

Sarsour spoke to News Channel 8 briefly about the comments made on social media about her.

“This is nothing new,” she told us.

“Unfortunately, I’ve been in this situation before and it’s not my first time with death threats against me, I’m grateful to live in a country where people recognize it’s wrong.”

The women’s rights activist added that this does not deter her in any way from spreading her message of equality and empowering women. In fact, she said it does just the opposite and it makes her even stronger and more determined to motivate young women.

Sarsour said she respects free speech and the First Amendment right to speak openly by sharing thoughts and opinions on social media.

“I believe people have the freedom to criticize and say the most disparaging things they want,” Sarsour said. “Any type of comments that can be threats to people’s lives are unacceptable.”

“I get more encouraged and more motivated to young women of color, we will not allow people to threaten us or standing up for what we believe in.”

News Channel 8 reached out to Giuliano and left a message requesting an interview. We have not heard back.

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