Local Black Lives Matter activist gets threatening calls after TV appearance

Lex Scott with Black Lives Matter gives a powerful speech inspiring others in the crowd to raise their fists with her during a Solidarity Rally in Salt Lake City on Monday, August 14, 2017. (Photo: Kelsey Brunner, Deseret News)

(Kelsey Brunner, Deseret News, File)

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SALT LAKE CITY — After local activist Lex Scott appeared on an episode of "PBS American Portrait" on Tuesday, she received a lot of positive feedback from friends, family and community members. But she also received several threatening phone messages the next day.

Unfortunately, threats are nothing new to Scott, the founder of Black Lives Matter Utah. She's posted audio recordings of two dozen such threats online for the public to see, and played audio of the new threats on Facebook Wednesday night.

"I need them to know that they didn't destroy me, and that I'm not going to cower," Scott told KSL.com, describing the messages as a kind of "psychological warfare."

"They have to know that, hey, if you leave a message like this, I'm going to be on Facebook laughing at you. I'm laughing at you! You didn't destroy me."

Scott said a man left her three different threatening messages Wednesday. In a video, the man can be heard describing himself as a member of the "American Resistance" and threatens to make "everything you know and love cease to exist."

"This isn't a threat ... it's a promise," he says, using a misogynistic slur. "The American Resistance will (mess) you up. Please, charge me with a crime."

The man rails against "homosexuals" throughout the messages and constantly repeats that the group will "(mess) you up."

"Define that. Define that legally, what that means, (mess) you up. We will make every aspect of your life impossible," he says. He also mocks the FBI during the messages; Scott said that's because her voicemail specifically says that death threats will be reported to the FBI.

Scott said the first time the FBI heard her voicemail, they said that it's "great" because that means callers "knew what they were doing when they left the death threat."

Scott has forwarded the messages to the FBI and has with each threat she's received. In a written statement to KSL.com, an FBI spokesperson said in part that the agency "cannot confirm or deny any particular contact or the potential existence of an investigation" in order to "protect the privacy of people who contact the FBI."

"As a general matter, though, allegations of criminal conduct are reviewed by the FBI for their merit, with consideration of any applicable federal laws," they said. "When warranted, the FBI takes appropriate action. We always urge the public to report anything suspicious. They can call 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit tips online at tips.fbi.gov."

After Scott played the recorded threats in the Facebook video, she talked about the fraught history of the FBI and civil rights organizations. She said the agency has actively reached out to her and other activist groups in Utah, working to move beyond its past and encouraging them to report hate crimes and threats.

"Some (threats) they can prosecute, some of them they can't," Scott said Thursday, adding that some threats are more explicit than others. "But I still try, because you never know if someone might try to follow through on their death threat."

'We do appreciate prayers'

In her "American Portrait" appearance, at the beginning of an episode titled "I Rise," Scott talked about her struggles growing up Black in Utah and how she got involved in activism. "If you mess with a Black kid, I am coming for you," Scott says. "I will be the person I needed when I was a kid.

"Our organization is truly a multi-pronged approach," she explained. "We hit the streets to protest police who brutalize and murder people; we work with legislators on both sides of the aisle to pass legislation that would stop police brutality from occurring; and we also work with police to hold them accountable for their actions and to correct the wrongs they've already committed."

Scott said she filmed herself for the appearance over the course of three months. "I appreciate PBS," she said. "I understand what they're trying to do, and I appreciate being chosen. I'm getting a lot of good feedback on it."

Despite the obstacles and threats, Scott told KSL.com she's focused on continuing the organization's work. Right now, all eyes are on the Utah Legislature where several police reform bills are under consideration, including changes to state rules on no-knock warrants and a requirement to collect data on "use of force" incidents.

"We need people to contact their elected officials and let them know that they support these bills," Scott said.

Black Lives Matter Utah is also working on launching a Black History Museum in a few weeks, she said, adding that joining the local chapter and supporting those efforts is the best way to help.

"But there's nothing anyone can do to stop people who are filled with hatred from hating," Scott said. "I would just say, if someone did believe in prayer, we do appreciate prayers."

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Graham Dudley reports on politics, breaking news and more for KSL.com. A native Texan, Graham's work has previously appeared in the Brownwood (Texas) Bulletin and The Oklahoma Daily.


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