An online petition to stop the Asatru Folk Assembly, which is considered a white supremacist hate group, from opening a gathering place in a western Minnesota city is gaining attention.
The Change.org petition, which launched on Dec. 11, has garnered more than 41,500 signatures as of Wednesday morning.
This comes after the Murdock City Council on Dec. 9 anonymously approved a conditional use permit for the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) that allows the group to use the former Lutheran church it purchased over the summer as a Midwest gathering place called the Baldurshof: Third Hof.
The AFA, which calls itself a Nordic heritage group, is designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC says it is a Neo-Volkisch hate group that believes in the need for micro-societies to "preserve their ethnicity and combat alleged white genocide." AFA's website explicitly calls for the preservation of white families.
"The Asatru Folk Assembly is identified as a Neo-völkisch hate group, which means they have the same ideation as Nazis," the petition says. "The group wants to create an all-white church; I shouldn't have to explain why that's bad. Please share and sign this petition as well as sending it to Minnesota's government and the Murdock City Council. We need to stop this."
The petition was started by Eridan Ampora, which is a pseudonym (Eridan Ampora is a character in the webcomic "Homestuck"), the Star Tribune says. It's common for organizers of petitions like this to use them because of concerns about being trolled online, a spokesperson told the paper.
The petition is the latest effort to prevent the AFA from settling in Murdock, a town of fewer than 300 people located in Swift county. In the months prior to the City Council's vote, concerned residents formed the Murdock Area Alliance Against Hate to raise awareness about the AFA and share concerns about "the inherent dangers of allowing a white supremacist group to use a residentially zoned property as a place of assembly in our small town."
However, the Murdock city attorney said if the city rejected the AFA's permit request it could violate the group's religious rights. After the City Council's vote, Murdock Mayor Craig Kavanagh said the permit approval had "nothing to do with beliefs or race, it was strictly a zoning issue."
What is the Asatru Folk Assembly?
The AFA says it believes in "an expression of the native, pre-Christian spirituality of Europe," with its Statement of Ethics explicitly calling for the preservation of white families, saying it supports "strong, healthy white family relationships" and wants its members to grow up to have "white children of their own."
The Statement of Ethics also says AFA's members should be ready for the challenge to defend "our folk" with "both cunning and physical skill when needed" and be prepared to "stand against those forces" that seek to destroy them.
Want to know more? An opinion piece, written by Nina Clark and published by MinnPost in October, looks at Minnesota's Nordic history and groups like AFA that use Nordic heritage as weapons against people of color, with Clark saying people shouldn't ignore the misuse of history, but should "hold it up for study." Have a read of it here.
As of 2019, there were at least two AFA groups established in Minnesota – one in Bloomington and one in Newport, the Southern Poverty Law Center said.