Willmar confronts its ugly underbelly

Willmar City Council member Ron Christianson didn’t show up at last night’s Council meeting where his west-central Minnesota constituents were to speak about Christianson’s social media commentary on Muslims in the community.

Christianson “liked” a woman’s post on Facebook that said “We need to get these people out of our country and back to other Muslim hell holes where they will fit in because they don’t fit in here and never will.”

A representative of Willmar’s Human Rights Commission had earlier said Christianson, who survived a recall election in 2015, should resign.

But speaking at last evening’s meeting, Ben Larson said he talked with Christianson’s wife who assured Larson her husband is not a racist. He favored giving the council member a chance to reject the woman’s views.

“It tears this community apart. He shouldn’t be a leader if he really believes those things,” Larson said, according to the West Central Tribune.

John Burns, a self-described proud Irish-American, said that immigrants to America, no matter their background, have dealt with these kinds of remarks for centuries.

“Every wave that comes in, it was the Irish, it was the Jews, it was the Italians, the Hispanics, all of them. All of them have suffered the same thing, even though in our sacred documents we say we believe all men are created equal,” Burns said.

There were also comments from those who supported Christianson and the Facebook posts in question.

“I’m tired of the Somalis too. They’ve taken over the whole damn town. You guys need to take your blinders off,” Joe Fernkes said.

Bob Skor said Christianson is not a racist, just a proud American.

“Everybody has their opinion, but we can’t agree to disagree and that is a problem,” Skor said.

The meeting was recessed after discussions outside the Council chambers got “heated”.

“I’m not going to pretend I didn’t hear a lot of hateful words in this chamber,” Councilor Shawn Mueske told the Tribune.

We have to remember those four words, ‘I love my neighbors,’ and get to know who our neighbors are. We have a great community and we’ll have an even greater community once we start working more and more together,” Councilor Kathy Schwantes said.