Vulgar language is used throughout the screenshots and pictures of this article. Our apologies.
First, thank you for opening this article and taking time to read it’s full content. It may be a bit lengthy, but there have been recent events in the last couple days right here in St Cloud that need addressing. I will start by breaking down for you what these items are, then what #unitecloud is doing to address them, and second how YOU can help. Though all the Facebook comments and posts were made publicly by people we have chosen to hide the names of the individuals. Though they may not “deserve it” we at #unitecloud do not wish to shame anyone or make anyone a target of violence.
The first item, and perhaps one of the most disturbing, took place on Facebook.
It would seem a young man in the community was jumped by some Somali men/youth (?) and robbed. The details aren’t very clear and how he knows they were Somali I am not sure. What we do know is that he posted a picture of the incident and it was shared by a friend of his. This has resulted in the (sadly) typical Somali bashing that takes place in our community. What was shocking, however, is the list of veiled and unveiled threats listed in numerous posts. These are hard to read, people, but we believe it is important to know what is going on in our community.
Just in case you missed that last part, READ THIS AGAIN:
Our concern here is not only for the safety of our Somali & Muslim community members, but for the safety of ALL community members. When individuals start to take justice into their own hands it is usually the WRONG people, innocent people that get hurt.
On the tails of this was a very disturbing post by a former Caribou Coffee employee that went viral.
Though no threats were made it is but another example of the hatred permeating our community and escalating the situation. Many in the Somali community were justifiably hurt and upset. Hatred feeds and fuels a fire of more hatred. It breeds a want for revenge and retaliation. Luckily, the way that this was handled by a member of the Somali community is one of the most selfless and beautiful acts of generosity and kindness we have ever seen.
Finally, sometime early Sunday morning people living on the south side of St Cloud woke up to find their vehicles had been vandalized.
A total of 20 cars had been vandalized with what appears to be a baseball bat or similar object. Nothing was stolen. The apartment complexes that were targeted are occupied predominately by Somali & Somali-American residents. They are viewing this as a hate crime. The incident left many families without a means to get to work as there is no bus line service for nightshift workers; it also left one young mother with no way to get to the grocery store or transport her children as it is their only vehicle. One gentleman had recently moved here from Maine and was shocked that this was his welcome to our community. Though there were many sad stories, perhaps one of the saddest was a family who had recently used their savings to purchase a new van only to have all of the windows broken out a few days later. Though they have insurance, they must now come up with money to pay the deductible to have it repaired. Money they don’t have. Not all the cars were present when we went to take pictures, but of those left some, though not all, did display either the prayer beads hanging from mirrors, the Somali flag or other Islamic identification on bumper stickers, etc. Another 4 cars were vandalized again just last night in the same exact location.
#Unitecloud was asked to take part in an impromptu meeting coordinated by some local Somali citizens looking to take action in result of these recent events. Many there expressed their fear of walking on the streets surrounding their homes, allowing their wives, children or other family and friends to play at local parks, attend community events such as the recent Art Crawl, or simply go to the grocery store. One young man shared a story of watching an older white lady yell at two Somali women and their children at a local store “Speak English!” and after a brief pause, “This is why we all hate you.” He said that he did not speak up, mostly because he did not want the children to understand or grasp what was going on. No one else in the store said anything.
So what was their solution? What did they purpose? A discussion was had and it is their hope to bring this item forward to the community’s attention. The recent incidents are now felt to be an issue of public safety as Muslims and Somalis & Somali-Americans are afraid for their safety. It was agreed that the Mayor and his office has perhaps remained silent on the issue of Somali & Community Relations. At a recent town hall meeting attended by #unitecloud member, Natalie, anger and intolerance were directed at the Somali residents by all others in attendance and was the vast majority of the conversation. Mayor Kleis stated that unfortunately he was unable to address these general concerns as his office is focused primarily on issues such as public safety. It was agreed by those at last night’s get together that these recent events have escalated the situation and a new level has now been reached. A public stand by the city office is needed- violence by anyone in our community will not be tolerated. Since our get together last evening a meeting has been arranged with Mayor Kleis and Police Chief Blair Anderson for this afternoon to discuss what is now being perceived by the community as a “public safety issue” and what the city office and the police department propose to do in response. We will keep you informed of how this goes.
In addition to their own fear, many expressed the understanding that there are some in the community that would not want to react so peaceably. Their hope is to begin a process to de-esculate the situation before it worsens, before anyone on either side of the issue is hurt again. As one of the gentlemen put it, “there are bad apples in our community just as there are bad apples in yours”. All of the women and men at the table agree that this is not an Us vs. Them issue, but an issue that affects our community at large.
In addition to helping arrange today’s meeting #unitecloud has also contacted the St Cloud Times to make them aware of the issues at hand in hopes to spread the word. Hopefully, getting the word out will 1.) help to root out anyone who may have heard or seen anything Sunday morning or evening and 2.) help people see that it is important to speak up and take a stand and 3.) help to hold the city offices accountable for actions moving forward.
So, here is where you come in. We have heard over and over from people out there in the community who are scared to share the fact that they are supportive of the Somali population who has made their home here in St Cloud. Some are business owners afraid of the adverse effects they will feel financially, some are people who fear retaliation from co-workers, the list goes on and on. This is NOT okay, people. This is not the sort of community we want to foster.
So here is what we ask of you:
1. Take a stand, publicly, to support tolerance in our community. You don’t have to agree with the US policy of taking in refugees or the current rules on immigration to SUPPORT TOLERANCE. We can disagree on anything and can still get along.
-Speak up when you see someone verbally attacked in our community.
-Speak up when you hear someone saying something hateful
-If you own a business, place something on your door or in your window letting people know you support tolerance. Here are some ideas (feel free to click and print!)
2. If you have seen or heard ANYTHING that could be of help the police locate the person(s) involved int the vandalism that took place near Edjwood Estates and the Quarry Commons please contact Crime Stoppers. It is ANONYMOUS.
3. When you see one of our Muslim or Somali residents (though I would say ANY community resident *wink*) help to let them know you welcome them here. Smile, say hello, give them the peace sign; anything to let them know they are welcome here. That there is more than hatred in our community.
4. SHARE THIS ARTICLE!
5. REALLY, SHARE THIS ARTICLE!
We need to get the word out and let EVERYONE know what is going on in this town and that violence by ANYONE will not be tolerated and that violence or hatred in return is NOT acceptable. Let your voice be heard St Cloud! Don’t let the hatred of some raise yours in kind. Go forth will gentleness and kindness and help us stop this escalation of hate.
*This article is a guest post, written by a local member of our community.