This Minnesota community is uniting against post-election hate

People are being harassed in Bemidji, and the mayor is not having it.

It's no secret that the country has been a bit divided post-election – hundreds of Minnesotans have protested against President-elect Donald Trump, and some minorities have suffered harassment and vandalism.

In Bemidji, a gay man was harassed in a store parking lot and followed home by a group of young men who shouted anti-gay slurs. And classmates of two Latino girls at a Bemidji elementary school told them their dad was going to be deported.

And the mayor is not having it.

In response to these and other reports of discrimination from citizens, Mayor Rita Albrecht met with local leaders and began organizing a pro-diversity campaign called "#BemidjiRespect."

The goal of the campaign is "to promote diversity and condemn hate or intolerance," a news release from the group, which also detailed the incidents above, said.

"Bemidji is a community that seeks to grow in our understanding, support systems, and desire to function as a community of safety and inclusion for everyone. These episodes will not set us back. We are working on a community response," Albrecht wrote in a Facebook post.

How to get involved

The group released a 200-word pledge that promises “shared values of mutual respect and appreciation for our differences.”

You can read and sign the statement here. The webpage also asks people to share ideas for ways to promote inclusion, understanding, and respect.

The mayor is encouraging everyone (businesses, faith communities, education and government organizations, and individuals) to opt in and sign the pledge, which will be published in the Bemidji Pioneer Sunday.

About 85 businesses and organizations have endorsed the pledge so far, including the Bemidji Police Department, Paul Bunyan Communications and several of the area's largest churches, the release said.

Their names will appear in the paper below the statement. The group plans to publish another newspaper ad early next month with an updated list of participants, including individuals.

They also launched a new Facebook page.

Other efforts in the community

About 80 people attended a post-election discussion at Bemidji State University Tuesday, Scott Fause, Director of Communications and Marketing at BSU and Northwest Technical College told GoMN.

"It was just a chance for people to share their concerns about being treated fairly and well," Faust said.

Some immigrant and LGBTQ students spoke at the discussion, which Faust says wasn't a debate.

"It was a good discussion – we tried not to make it about the outcome of the election. There were some students there who had supported Trump, and there were a lot of strong feelings. But everything was very civil and helpful," Faust said.

He said the university plans to continue engaging the students in productive discussions. And the campus has endorsed the statement from the #BemidjiRespect group.

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