Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Man Protesting Target's Transgender Policy Mistaken for Active Shooter 

target, lgbt

A man who entered a Target department store in Bradley, Illinois, to protest the company's transgender bathroom policy was arrested on Monday.

Michael Merichko was mistaken for an active shooter because he caused a scene by screaming, prompting a lockdown of the strip mall where the store is located, and triggering a massive response from multiple police agencies, reports Chicago TV station, WMAQ. Police told the TV station that the man's actions caused "panic among store employees and customers." The 911 call, which came around 1 p.m., mentioned there was an active shooter in the store.

Merichko has entered the store, which is located about 55 miles south of Chicago, yelling on previous occasions, reports WMAQ. Merichko had published a video on his personal Facebook page explaining his position against Target's trans-inclusive bathroom policy prior to this incident.

"I do not want some wicked pervert in the same bathroom as my wife or my daughter," he reportedly said on Facebook, wrongfully conflating transgender people with sex offenders. There has never been a single verified report of a transgender person attacking a cisgender (nontrans) person in a bathroom, and the "bathroom predator" myth has been thoroughly debunked and proven false. 

Bradley Police Lt. Mike Johnston said investigators reported that Merichko "made no threats of shooting anyone in the store." The police said they were not sure why the 911 call reporting the incident mentioned an active shooter. Merichko was "confronted outside the store and taken into custody without incident," Johnston told WMAQ. There were no shots fired and no weapon was discovered at the store. 

Merichko was charged with disorderly conduct for the disturbance he allegedly created inside the Target store. No injuries were reported at the scene. 

Anti-LGBT activists have been protesting the store's pro-LGBT policy, which allows employees and customers to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, since the new policy was enacted. The American Family Association, which is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has been sending cisgender men into women's restrooms at the retail chain

The store announced its policy in April, saying in a statement, "Inclusivity is a core belief at Target. It's something we celebrate." The policy came in response to North Carolina's transphobic law, House Bill 2. The law specifically targets transgender people by not permitting them to use public restrooms or locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity. It also bans local governments from including sexual orientation and gender identity in anti-discrimination ordinances, and bars residents from filing discrimination complaints in state court. 

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