La Salle Mayor Jeff Grove responded to media coverage linking two La Salle police officers to a conspiracy group called "QAnon," noting he's going to judge the officers by their daily work and if there are any issues that are brought up, "we'll definitely be addressing them."
La Salle police officer Matthew Kunkel posted pictures online showing he and another La Salle police officer Mark Manicki in May at a Reopen Illinois rally in Springfield. The two are shown wearing yellow vests with the letter “Q." On Manicki’s social media profile, there are posts with hashtags with the word, “QAnon."
The photo drew the attention of WLPO's morning radio show, as well as a recent report from CBSN out of Chicago.
The Associated Press refers to QAnon as a "right-wing, pro-Trump conspiracy theory."
According to a May report in The Atlantic, the FBI classified QAnon as a domestic-terror threat in an internal memo reported on by Yahoo News. The memo took note of a California man arrested in 2018 with bomb-making materials. According to the FBI, he had planned to attack the Illinois capitol, The Atlantic said.
According to the Atlantic, the memo also took note of a QAnon follower in Nevada who was arrested in 2018 after blocking traffic on the Hoover Dam in an armored truck. The man, heavily armed, was demanding the release of the inspector general’s report on Hillary Clinton’s emails.
In explaining the Q belief system, the Atlantic said: "Q is an intelligence or military insider with proof that corrupt world leaders are secretly torturing children all over the world; the malefactors are embedded in the deep state; Donald Trump is working tirelessly to thwart them. The eventual destruction of the global cabal is imminent, Q prophesies, but can be accomplished only with the support of patriots who search for meaning in Q’s clues."
When asked, Manicki said he does not agree with the allegations made against QAnon being "right-wing, pro-Trump conspiracy theory" or "conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists" or that the Q is a conspiracy theory.
He said his participation with the QAnon movement does not affect his job as an officer in a negative way “at all.”
Manicki explained in a statement to the NewsTribune how he participates with the QAnon movement, which he said is a "peaceful movement of patriotic people who have united across the entire planet to strive for a better world."
"We seek a world without corruption, a world where government transparency exists, a world where we all stop worrying about how we’re all different. We want to put our differences aside and work together to achieve this mission. Unity, not division! Our mantra is Where We Go One We Go All (WWG1WGA). Is there a more inclusive group out there than this one?
“People who follow Q, research the information provided by Q, which is in the form of anonymous internet posts/drops on 8kun," Manicki said. "I, like millions of other people on this planet, enjoy the challenge of attempting to decode the information contained within the Q drops. It’s called 'Q Research' for a reason, it requires research to obtain the information encoded within the posts. There are currently more than 4,500 Q drops that have been made since 2017. As I said, it’s complex, and it requires research to be involved."
Manicki said he posts the information to his personal Facebook/Twitter page after he does his research for other like-minded people to peer review the information.
“I share my research in the form of what I call 'story time' and I’ve made it very clear that it’s up to the reader to decide what is fact, and what is fiction," Manicki said. "There are all kinds of stories in this world, fiction, non-fiction, you must decide! I do chose to share my research in story format so even people who have no clue what Q is can follow along."
Manicki said he keeps his own personal bias out of what he translates from Q, saying that anything he publishes is what he believes Q is saying.
"No one cares what I think, at the end of the day it’s about Q and the information provided by them that’s important. ...
“One of the main objectives of the Q Movement is encouraging people to think for themselves, as many have lost faith in the mainstream media worldwide. Being the Q Movement and main stream media are at odds with one another, is it any surprise they demonize our movement every chance they get? No, it’s to be expected honestly, given they have a clear motive/bias in doing so. Q serves as a way to circumvent the mainstream media, and they clearly aren’t happy about that."
“In closing, I’m merely someone who sits on my couch late at night with my dog on my lap, iPhone in hand, while seeking the truth. Last time I checked, there was nothing wrong with that!"
The NewsTribune asked Manicki if he thinks his participation with QAnon affects his job as a police officer. He said his participation with QAnon affects his position “in a positive way, absolutely.”
“Researching Q requires an open mind, great investigatory skills, and a desire to get to the truth. Isn’t every police investigation a search for the truth? You solve crimes by having an open mind, thinking outside the box, and not allowing outside influences affect your investigation. It would seem, I’m the perfect guy for the job!" Manicki said.
The mayor said he called the officers, who confirmed to him they were attending the rally on their own time and they were not wearing any city of La Salle-affiliated attire.
“I said, what you do on your own time is your choice, and that's your right,” Grove said.
Grove mentioned from what he has seen, the two police officers’ social media accounts are not associated with the city or their duties with the city.
Grove wants the public to know that “any concern, whether it be the police department, the public works, the parks and rec, any kind of concern we get on conduct, on respect, on something unethical or immoral, or safety wise, we're going to investigate it” – the city has zero tolerance for anything related to those things, he said.
“I’m going to go off the actions of the officers we see day in and day out,” he said. “At this point in time, we’re going to be continuing on. If there are any issues that are brought up, we’ll definitely be addressing them.”
Grove said he will never allow any city employee to have more than one complaint.
“I would push for termination on the second one,” he said about any city personnel who has a complaint of misconduct proven to be valid.
He said the city will continue to monitor its employees and officials.
“We need to make sure we’re doing the right thing by our people,” Grove said about serving the public. “You’re going to be held accountable to do it or you’re not going to be here anymore.”
Kunkel did not respond to the NewsTribune for a comment.