Protesters of ICE practices target rental property owner

- Frustrated and confused, a businessman says he believes protesters -- upset about federal immigration policies -- are aiming a the wrong target.

Businessman and property owner Chuck Prather says he rented office space to the U.S. government 21 years ago. He could not have predicted the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, would make his building its home in Tampa.

Now, Prather says protesters of ICE have unfairly tried to ruin his name.

The sign outside the building says Department of Homeland Security, but officials with ICE also have offices inside. But Prather says the attacks against him are happening all over.

Surveillance video from Tuesday night on Beach Drive in St. Petersburg shows two people walking up to the front of the Birchwood Inn and taping something to the outside. Wednesday morning, Prather found out they were personal attacks against him.

"I had an elderly neighbor who walks dogs come running up and said, 'Chuck, all over downtown are these posters that say you're a predator, and sexual violence, what's going on?'" Prather told FOX 13 News.

Prather says he found and removed about 25 flyers around downtown St. Pete, including on the inn's historical marker. 

The flyers say Prather profits from the "caging of undocumented people" and call for a boycott of his businesses, which includes a centerpiece of the upcoming Pier project. 

"I believe in people's right to protest," he said. "But I am now the victim of something I have nothing to with. My employees are the victim of something they have nothing to do with."

He believes this is a continuation of protests at ICE's Tampa office, a building he owns at 5524 Cypress. Last month, several were arrested by TPD following days of outcry. 

Prather said he had no idea which department would be housed there when the lease was signed 21 years ago. The lease only says "U.S. Government."

"They have a right to speak and say ICE should be disbanded," he said. "I defend that right to protest. I have the right to say don't protest against me."

He's not sure if a crime was committed, but he is looking into whether he'd have a civil case against whomever is calling him a "predator."

"I have nothing to do with this fight. If someone wants to have ICE disbanded, take it up with your congressman," he said.

St. Pete police says they are investigating, but are not yet able to say if a crime was committed.

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