Police investigated bomb threats made against Target stores in Utah after being alerted by local media outlets that received emails referencing the retail chain’s LGBTQ collections celebrating Pride Month.
Salt Lake City police communications director Brent Weisberg told USA TODAY that officers worked with Target and determined there was no credible threat to the two Target stores in Salt Lake City.
“Officers will continue neighborhood patrols around the Target locations in Salt Lake City out of an abundance of caution,” Weisberg said in a statement.
Weisberg declined to provide specifics of the threats, citing an ongoing investigation.
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“We encourage anyone who sees anything suspicious to immediately call 9-1-1,” he said.
In a statement to USA TODAY, Target said its stores are open and operating regular hours.
“Law enforcement investigated these claims and determined our stores are safe,” the company said.
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Sgt. John Ottesen with Layton Police told the CBS affiliate KUTV 2News that bomb threats were made to Target stores in Layton, Salt Lake, Taylorsville and Provo.
He said officers began the investigation after two local new stations received emails alerting them to the threats. The threats mentioned Target’s Pride merchandise.
The threat was three sentences long and came from “bogus email address,” according to Sgt. Ottesen.
Target has been hit with a conservative backlash for merchandise it carries to promote Pride Month. Target’s website carries hundreds of Pride products, including T-shirts, books and furnishings. Pride Month begins in June.
After critics posted videos of people attacking LGBTQ Pride displays and confronting employees in Target stores, the company held emergency meetings and decided to remove or relocate some Pride merchandise so it’s less visible in stores.
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At issue was misinformation spread about “tuck friendly” swimsuits that allow trans women who have not had gender-affirming operations to conceal male genitals. Some social media accounts falsely claimed the swimsuits were being sold in children’s sizes.
Conservatives also seized on Target’s partnership with Abprallen, which they claimed features Satanist designs. Target sells an Abprallen sweatshirt with a snake that says: “Cure transphobia, not trans people.”
Hundreds of bills targeting LGBTQ people – particularly transgender people – have been introduced by Republican lawmakers in statehouses across the country, seeking to regulate what bathrooms they can use, what medical care they can receive and what sports teams they can play on.
Prominent figures in the GOP like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, has elevated divisive issues such as gender-transition care for minors.
LGBTQ groups condemned Target for bowing to political pressure.
“Extremist groups and individuals work to divide us and ultimately don’t just want rainbow products to disappear, they want us to disappear,” Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “For the past decade, the LGBTQ+ community has celebrated Pride with Target −it’s time that Target stands with us and doubles-down on their commitment to us.”
On Twitter, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, criticized Target’s CEO Brian Cornell, accusing him of “selling out the LGBTQ+ community to extremists.”