A Facebook post from our area has gone viral, igniting a war of words online and quickly bringing accusations of racism.
A picture of a man in the woods of central Wisconsin and the threatening comments attached to it are moving fast through social media.
In the original Facebook post, which has since been removed, the poster said he found a picture of a man standing in the woods on his trail camera. He also said the camera was tampered with. Authorities believe the camera was on public property near the Marathon-Wood County line.
A Hmong Facebook club with more than 26,000 members contacted Newsline 9 with the screenshot as it went viral. It contained comments threatening to shoot the man in the picture and noting past run-ins. Other comments had racial slurs.
Now, the Hmong Community is responding.
"Some of those comments are very serious and very hurtful," said Peter Yang, the executive director of the Wausau Area Hmong Mutual Association.
A comment referring to the Hmong community as "they" brings to mind the complicated relationship between Hmong refugees and caucasian hunters in Wisconsin.
"You know the Chai Vang incident approximately 10 years ago, and I think there still could be some contention with that issue," said Brandon Smith, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources warden.
That incident involved a Hmong man convicted of shooting 8 hunters, killing 6 of them.
"I think there is definitely misunderstanding or different feelings out there," said Yang, who works to promote cultural understanding and help integrate Hmong people into the community.
But there might be a silver lining to this story. A company and a community have agreed to learn more about each other.
Marawood Construction Services, Inc. contacted Newsline 9 after receiving angry emails from community members. Marawood employs one of the people who commented on the photo.
"We're doing our best to make this hurtful, negative incident into a healing, positive one," said Martin Machtan, Marawood's community relations director. He says the comments the employee made do not represent the company. He says the company has offered to work with that employee.
"One is one-on-one counseling. Another opportunity is high-level interpersonal skills training," said Machtan.
The company has also reached out to Yang to speak to workers. Yang says he intends to accept that offer.
"If there's an opportunity for us to go and talk about the Hmong people and our culture and why we are here, I think it's a great opportunity for us," said Yang.
As far as the original post, Marshfield police say it didn't break any laws. But the comments may have. Police say they've forwarded them to sheriff's departments for further investigation.
Newsline 9 reached out to those behind the comments and the man who originally posted the picture. They didn't return our request for comment.