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Controversial Facebook page targets homeless

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REDDING, Calif. - A controversial Facebook page is gaining a lot of attention in Shasta County.

The Redding Area Transient Patrol group or R.A.T. Patrol group claims to shine light on the homeless situation in Redding. However, homeless advocates are concerned the group is promoting violence against the homeless.

Posts on the group refer to "eradicating" the homeless population, using what advocates call "violent and inhumane" acts.

Chris Solberg , the founder of the Redding Coalition for the Homeless fears the group is a real threat.

Solberg said he and other activists have been called out. "It said we're going to get a big super soaker and spray you with acid and urine to the members of the group who are homeless activists."

According to Facebook, other posts refer to locking transients in dumpsters and "creating a blockade around public water fountains to defend public water."

Solberg said the group is full of hatred.

"I was actually shocked and dismayed that this kind of violence should be suggested on a public forum," Solberg said.

Steven Lee is the creator the R.A.T. Patrol group. Lee said he originally started the group as a satire to a major issue he saw in the community. Lee said the page now serves as a platform for people to address the homeless population head on.

Lee said he wants Redding to be a safe place for people.

"We can't have that when we have homeless people leaving hypodermic needles and stealing things and doing drug deals out in the open," Lee said.

According to Lee, the homeless population is destroying the community. Lee claims he doesn't monitor the posts that advocates call violent. However, Lee said he believes extreme measures do have to be taken.

"Some members have suggested filling up squirt guns with urine and spraying them while they sleep, or putting bear traps in dumpsters," Lee said. "I haven't personally done that, but if people are doing that, good for them."

Lee has posted several comments on the group including a post that reads, "I am assembling a team of R.A.T. Patrol troops to create a blockade around public water fountains during these scorching hot summer days. We must defend our public water from being stolen from non taxpaying leaches that attempt to steal water."

When asked if he actually created a patrol group, Lee neither confirmed nor denied that he did. However in a later post, Lee wrote "Nothing made me happier than seeing these vermin begging and desperately pleading for water."

The Redding Police Department is aware of the Facebook group, but representatives say there's not much they can do.

Sergeant Todd Cogle said the department is monitoring the site, but people have the right to free speech.

Sgt. Cogle said police have not received any reports of action taken by the group, but they are keeping a close eye on the situation.

"They have a right to express their views. However, there is a line there where if action is taken and harm is done and a crime is committed we will investigate it and take the appropriate action," Cogle warned.

The Redding Coalition for the homeless plans to host a social media rally on twitter Tuesday morning. They are encouraging people to tweet against the group with the hastag #NoRAT.

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