Hundreds of St. Cloud citizens of all creed and color joined a walk for unity, peace and tolerance on Tuesday, days after a stabbing attack that authorities saw was potentially an act of terrorism.
The #StCloudUnited rally was organized by St. Cloud State University student leaders, and it comes after one of their fellow students, 20-year-old Dahir Adan, is suspected of perpetrating the mass stabbing at the Crossroads Center that injured 10 people.
Adan, a U.S. citizen born in Kenya and raised by Somali parents, was killed by an off-duty police officer and his motives are now being investigated, but the incident has prompted calls for tolerance from the Somali-American community amid rising fears of retaliation.
In a Facebook post, SCSU said the rally was a show of "voices raised against the forces of ignorance and hate, against the unfounded fears that fuel suspicion and resentment."
One of the main organizers of the rally was Mohamed Warsame, president of the Somali Student Association, who was among the students leading the walk through the campus grounds.
Among those taking part was third-year student Barwaaqo Dirir, who knew Adan and told the Star Tribune: "In recent nights, there have been nights when I wake up crying.
"My heart is heavy with a desperate need to pray for everyone. There are too many hurting and broken people."
There have been few who have better exemplified the unity of St. Cloud than its police chief, William Blair Anderson, who from the start has made it clear that the attack should strengthen community ties, not divide them.
Media Matters reports Anderson appeared on Fox News show "Fox and Friends" on Monday, and was asked about Republican candidate Donald Trump's calls for "extreme vetting" of immigrants.
After co-host Steve Doocy asked if he shares his concerns about "who is coming into the country?" Anderson answered:
"My job is public safety. It’s not immigration policy. I can tell you that the vast majority of all of our citizens, no matter their ethnicity, are fine, hard-working people, and now is not the time for us to be divisive. We already have a very cohesive community, and I expect that this will draw us even closer together. But at the end of the day, our job is public safety, period."
The St. Cloud Times' editorial board, reacting to his comments, wrote: "This community needs to keep delivering that kind of message locally and nationally to show unity overcomes hate."
The FBI took over the St. Cloud attack investigation on Tuesday, with investigators still probing whether Adan had any links to foreign terror organizations, having thus far found none.