'Unapologetically White' Posters Dot Minnesota City
St. Joseph residents reported that dozens of White nationalist posters were displayed prominently in the city on Wednesday, according to the police department.
An area resident reported the signs to the police department early afternoon. St. Joseph Police Chief Joel Klein said the posters were largely found on main roadways such as Minnesota Street and College Avenue.
Signs are not allowed on power poles or in the public right of way, according to Klein, and officers were taking them down. This is the first time the St. Joseph area has seen such signs, Klein said. Similar posters have been seen in St. Cloud.
Ray Sjogren, a St. Joseph resident, said he first spotted the posters leaving the post office on Wednesday. Signs said "unapologetically white," "hate speech is free speech" and "there are two genders."
Each poster contained a logo and the name of a group: St. Cloud State White Student Union. The posters were found predominantly in the downtown St. Joseph area, Klein and Sjogren said.
Sjogren said he spoke with security at the College of St. Benedict, who told him they removed approximately 20 posters of a similar nature.
Sjogren was not sure if it was legal to post the signs on telephone poles, but he took down the ones he saw. "If it's legal to put them up, then I'm doing civil disobedience," said Sjogren. He planned to walk downtown and remove any other signs he saw later in the day.
Hatred towards Muslims, Somalis, and people from Africa has increased in the community, Sjogren said, since he moved back to the area three years ago, and he is shocked by what is happening.
"If we're silent then we're complacent," said Sjogren. "And we can't do that."
Natalie Ringsmuth, founder of UniteCloud, said similar signs have been seen regularly in St. Cloud since last fall.
The "rash of recent signs," the creation of a Facebook group for St. Cloud White Student Union, and the Identity Evropa banner drop shows increasing frequency of such actions, however. "Those things together look like escalation to me," Ringsmuth said. "That's more frequent postings than before."
Ringsmuth also said the group appears to be stepping closer to the spotlight, but it is unclear if that is because of an increasing desire to be heard or if the group is more emboldened.
Ringsmuth said she and others will be attending a town hall meeting on Friday to raise awareness about the recent display of signs and general issues in the area.
As of late afternoon, St. Joseph police officers were taking down the remaining white nationalist signs.
Sjogren said he planned to post photos of the signs he removes on Facebook Wednesday night in order to raise awareness. He believes people need to confront hatred with kindness, love, reason and fact.