February 03, 2018 09:55 AM
Ray Sjogren found the posters hanging from power poles on St. Joseph's main street - Minnesota Street West - when he came out of the post office Wednesday.
"It was there and in your face," he said.
Residents reported seeing at least a dozen white nationalist posters displayed prominently on utility poles Wednesday, including some that said "Unapoligetically White," misspelling the word unapologetically. Similar posters have been seen recently in nearby St. Cloud.
Sjogren said they were on every pole, even across from the Catholic school.
And he felt angry.
"This is fascism," he said. "It's antithetical to our beliefs, our values, our country, our morals. Can you imagine if you work in this community - and you aren't white and saw something like this - can you imagine how damaging that is? And they were posted so the kids at school could see them."
St. Joseph Police Chief Joel Klein says signs are not allowed on power poles or in the right of way, so officers have removed them. The St. Cloud Times reported the posters had a logo and the name of a group called St. Cloud State White Student Union.
St. Cloud State University spokesman Adam Hammer said the group is not a registered student organization, nor has there been any attempt by the group to register.
Hammer provided this statement:
"This White Student Union group that has been reported about is not a student organization at St. Cloud State and no attempts by this 'union' have been made to become a registered student organization. The group has removed St. Cloud State University from their name per the university's request and multiple requests to the Facebook page administrator seeking an identity have been denied. It remains unclear if this group includes actual students or is just claiming to be students.
St. Cloud State takes great pride in the diversity of its campus, including students from all cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds, communities and heritage. We have been monitoring this situation and while posters have been found on light poles in the neighborhood near campus, no posters have been reported on campus. We continue to monitor and work with campus and community partners."
Sjogren said he's heard more anti-immigrant sentiment in Central Minnesota since he moved back to St. Joseph from Seattle three years ago. But he said the posters don't represent his hometown.
He also had a dilemma. He is a supporter of free speech. So he had to decide whether he would take the posters down.
"Everybody has the right to express their opinions even if they are disgusting," he said.
But he felt he needed to take a stand against the hateful message, so he took them down. He also took them to Klein.
"The signs are against city ordinance because they are in the right of way," Klein said.
Klein said the content of the flyers wasn't against the law. But he said the message of the flyers is out of the norm around St. Joseph.
Natalie Ringsmuth is the executive director of Unite Cloud. Her group tries to promote tolerance. And she has had direct contact with the group.
"They are hurt by what we do," she said. "I'm trying to understand why they are hurt."
She said she asked them to meet with her so she could understand their perspective better, but they refused.
"They believe it's imperative for them to protect white interest," she said. "I can't get them to answer what those are."
Sjogren's said he wants to respond with love. He wants the group to know he doesn't condone violence against them and wants to talk to them about their views.
"If we are going to fight back, have to respond with love and kindness," he said.
KSTP directly communicated with the group on Facebook. An administrator told us the group is made up of 40 college students based in the St. Cloud area.
The person said they support the message of the posters, but don't know if one of their members put them up.
They say they don't support breaking the law,but they would reveal their names or agree to a phone or on-camera interview.
The Associated Press contributed to this story
Updated: February 03, 2018 09:55 AM
Created: January 18, 2018 01:55 PM
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