Police respond to Planet Fitness bomb threats, advocates blame transphobia

DELMARVA – Recent bomb threats have been issued at Planet Fitness locations in Delmarva.

Police say they are monitoring the situation and remain ready to respond to any new threats. Meanwhile, LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), say they have an idea of ​​why these threats are being made.

Two bomb threats in two weeks

The Planet Fitness location in Milford was the subject of two separate bomb threats in the span of two weeks. The first incident took place on April 6 around 4 p.m.

“We were notified by another law enforcement agency of an email they had received targeting several Planet Fitness (locations) around the state,” said Milford Police Sgt. Timothy Maloney. “We did a sweep of the interior and exterior of the building, believing the property to be safe. I think we cleared just before 8 p.m.

Then on April 15, around the same time of day, Milford police once again had to deploy their explosives detection K9 units to that same gymnasium; respond to an almost identical threat.

“We were informed by a partner agency that they had received an email very similar to the previous one, with the same type of thing affecting the same Planet Fitness location,” said Sgt. Maloney said.

Alarming trend

This alarming trend isn’t just happening in Milford. Planet Fitness locations in Ocean City, Maryland and Seaford were also threatened.

Shoshana Goldberg, director of public education and research at HRC, says it all started with a TikTok video. In the video, a person believed to be a transgender woman is shown using the facilities at a Planet Fitness women’s locker room in Alaska.

“In reality, it was probably a transgender woman who was in the bathroom with Planet Fitness’ stated gender inclusion policy,” Goldberg said. “Another person in the bathroom got upset or offended and sent it to the ‘Libs of TikTok,’ and that’s what started it.”

A story of hatred?

Goldberg claims the “Libs of TikTok” account has a history of spreading hate, particularly against LGBTQ+ people.

“I think in this situation what we see is a woman who knows the reach of her platform and is willing, even willing, to weaponize it,” Goldberg said. “At first, it was hospitals and doctors who provided gender-affirming care to children. Now it’s teachers, schools, libraries, Planet Fitness. This is a growing desire to limit the places and spaces where LGBT people feel safe and free to live their lives openly. »

According to Media Matters, 44 Planet Fitness locations across the country were subject to bomb threats in connection with this video.

“Usually it starts with online harassment. They will go into that person’s account and flood their TikTok page, (X, formerly known as) Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, whatever with comments, and it can start to escalate,” Goldberg said. “It can escalate into harassing phone calls, protests at a business, or in this case we’re seeing multiple Planet Fitness locations across the country, not even the one in the video, start to receive bomb threats.”

Looking forward

Goldberg says HRC expects the threats to continue, but encourages members of the LGTBQ+ community and their allies to continue to live proudly and fight misinformation.

“Once you have this information, be prepared to talk to the people around you and tell them, ‘That’s not really what’s happening.’ Here’s what the policy actually says, here’s what gender-affirming care is,” Goldberg said. “I think it’s important to bring things to light to discredit them. I think when you hesitate to do it, it allows it to continue unchecked.

Back in Milford, the police department says it treats each bomb threat as a real threat and remains prepared to respond to any new incidents.

“I wouldn’t say there is a threat to public safety at this time, or outside of when we receive a particular threat,” said Sgt. Maloney said.

Making bomb threats is a serious offense and can land you in jail. According to the FBI, it is a federal crime to issue a threat by phone, social media, text or email. Those convicted of such threats can spend up to five years in prison, and may also face state and local charges.

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