(Google Map Data, 2020)

As Rumors Spread Across Social Media, State Police Tamp Down Protest Fears Along Shoreline Connecticut

As social media posts spark a news story in the Hearst-owned Shoreline Times, and spread across social media, Connecticut State Police tamped down rumors of threatened looting at the Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets.

“We’ve taken many calls, it’s definitely out there about Clinton Crossing, many people are calling us and asking questions. We’re trying to tell them it’s a precaution and we’re hoping nothing is coming this way at all. But we are prepared if something does happen,” said Sgt. Mark Devine of the Connecticut State Police, Troop F, by phone Saturday morning.

Devine said that the State Police know of many peaceful protests scheduled throughout the area, including one in Clinton at 1 p.m on Sunday, but have no evidence of any credible threats related to protests.

“There was just Facebook chatter, supposedly people saying, ‘Hey a friend on Facebook said that something was happening here.’  And we got phone calls on that and that’s all we currently have now to my knowledge. There could be something else out there that we weren’t made aware of. It was ‘err on the side of caution,’ I believe,” said Devine.

After being named in a social media post, the management of Clinton Crossing made the decision to close the outlet, according to Devine.

“The management in Clinton decided to shut and they were all in agreement. They were working with the Clinton Police Department with that. We were advised and we’re aware of it and we’re assisting them in any way possible with a line of communication with them,” he explained.

Corporate and local representatives from the Simon Property Group of Indianapolis, which owns the Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets, did not respond to calls Saturday morning. Calls to the Clinton Police Department on Saturday morning reached voicemail.

Six miles away, Westbrook Outlets will operate as normal on Saturday, said Charlie Guthrie, General Manager of Westbrook Outlets, by phone Saturday morning. 

“We have been informed that Clinton received direct threats to their facility, which is why they’re taking protective actions. We have not. And we are going to be business as usual. We have law enforcement that will be in place on the premises for the protection of our shoppers and we expect absolutely no problems,” she said. 

Devine said the State Police advised Westbrook about actions taken in Clinton.

“They are currently open and we are keeping an eye on anything there with some contingency plans that they need to shut down early, but we have not heard anything about anyone going there to create a problem.”

Devine said that state troopers were aware of planned local protests in Old Lyme and Durham, and were coordinating with local organizers.

“We’re fully aware of the one in Old Lyme, the resident trooper is working with them, they’re going to be there with them today…. Same thing with Durham, which has one planned today. They have resident trooper and another trooper up there to assist with their protest. The big ones are in Meriden and New Haven.”

Devine said that he was unaware of any looting or violent protests in Connecticut. 

“I have not heard of any. Everything is peaceful. We had a pretty strong presence in New Haven last night. I was working from here. A lot of it was Facebook Live, we were able to watch it. It was very peaceful, and we had no issue there. Everything went relatively smooth and we’re hoping that they all move in that manner,” said Devine. 

In New London, Brian Wright, Captain of the New London Police Department, said there have been no direct threats made to the city even though it has been named in social media posts. 

“All we have for intelligence is hearsay on social media, we have no hard, credible facts or details indicating that there are actual events that are going to happen,” said Wright, by phone Saturday morning. “We have been mentioned along with Clinton in some social media postings. Some of the posts that had Clinton Crossing Outlets also indicated that we do have a protest rally event scheduled for today in New London. In the social media posting that we’ve seen, New London was named, no explicit act, but New London was named as a location for an event today.”

Wright was also unaware of any looting in Connecticut, and described the protests so far as mostly peaceful.

“So far, protests have been peaceful for the most part. Honestly, when dealing with the subject matter and what took place in Minneapolis, people are angry and upset and frustrated, we understand that,” said Wright.  “We support the public’s right to peacefully demonstrate. Our intentions are to allow peaceful demonstrations to happen without any intervention by us today.”

Wright said that the New London police would exercise diligence, but was unaware of any credible threats.

“With social media, things pick up or ramp up all it takes is one post and then it gains and every time an individual posts something, honestly, there’s added information or something added to it whether it be credible or hard-fast first person understanding, or it becomes he-says-she-says,” said Wright. 

“But like we would not be [exercising] diligence if we did not read and collect these things to ensure everyone’s safety. But as of this point in time, we do not have any credible, hard facts or information that something terribly wrong is supposed to happen in New London or anywhere else other than social media postings.”

Latest from Cate Hewitt