Tracker Pixel for Entry

​‘North Dakota has created a climate to allow hate crimes to exist’

by C.S. Hagen | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | News | June 19th, 2019

Stephanie Johnson, Michelle Rydz, Kirsten Dauphinais, David Chapman, and Crystal Dueker - members present during the US Commission on Civil Rights meeting - photograph by C.S. Hagen

By C.S. Hagen and Melissa Gonzalez
FARGO – A public meeting to begin laying the groundwork toward establishing better hate crime legislation across the state soured Wednesday afternoon receiving criticism and spurring two people to leave early.

The North Dakota Advisory Committee – a federally appointed group assigned by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 2017 to study and then advise lawmakers on how to address hate speech and hate crimes – is comprised of a total of 11 people and held its first public meeting to listen to testimonies from area advocates, professors, legislators, and lawyers.

Little progress has been made since the committee has been assembled two years ago, Representative Ruth Buffalo said.

“No offense, but it seems your committee is a ghost committee,” Buffalo said. She made the comment after testimonies regarding the difficulties new Americans, LGBTQ, and transgender people face on a daily basis.

“People don’t know where to turn to,” Buffalo said. “Currently the state of North Dakota does not have a hate crime law nor does any city or county have any ordinances pertaining to hate crime.

“Even sitting here with the media in the room is unnerving to me; I can’t tell you how many times my stomach is flipping back and forth because we know that certain media groups in our state of North Dakota are very problematic,” Buffalo said. “They contribute to a huge division of hate in our country, in our state, in our city, and I have been on the receiving end. This reminds me of being a victim sitting in court with the perpetrator sitting on the other side of the room.”

Barry Nelson and Ruth Buffalo giving testimony - photograph by C.S. Hagen

A term to describe residents in the state was once North Dakota Nice, but in many circles – especially after the militarized response to protect private oil interests during the DAPL controversy – the state is now called the “Deep North.”

“It’s not funny,” Buffalo said. “It’s not a game. People’s lives have been put in danger including my children. Based off of media’s behavior and what type of rhetoric they push and it’s unacceptable.”

Miriam Zeidman, counsel with the Anti Defamation League, which is active in North Dakota, said that hate crime laws do not punish speech and do not infringe upon a person’s civil rights. Hate speech harms an entire community by telling them they are being targeted.

The state needs to amend its laws, or make new laws, separate the hate crime section in the state’s Century Code, listing specific crimes, enforce mandatory training for all law enforcement, and mandatory data compiling.

Currently, the state has no place to officially report hate crimes. Reports that do come in are typically sent to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Buffalo said.

Attorney David Chapman explaining his view - photograph by C.S. Hagen

“Where are we going?” committee member David Chapman, an attorney, said. “Does that not send a message against free speech? My biggest concern is for the First Amendment and for civil rights. Creating a separate category would cross that line.”

Hukun Abdullahi, executive director of the Afro American Development Association left the meeting early after he said the North Dakota Advisory Committee were looking at the issues from a privileged white person’s perspective.

“Hate must be exposed and denounced,” Abdullahi said. “Mr. Chairman, you asked your question from a point of privilege.”

Hukun Abdullahi and Laetitia Mizero Hellerud - Advocate and Social Justice Activist - offering testimony - photograph by C.S. Hagen

Abdullah stepped out of the meeting after the question posed by Chapman created initial tension between the committee and the panelists.

“The question he was asking me was very selected,” Abdullah said. “And like, he said ‘freedom of speech’ and I was like... Killing of Muslims is freedom of speech? Somebody like that is a chairman for the U.S. civil rights? I’m just wondering what basis they selected him? You know, harassing individuals, people of color and indigenous (people) if it’s okay, can that person be a part of the Civil Rights Commission? And then for us to be wasting our time and the chairman is just nuts. It’s like people we’re talking about, he’s resistant to change. I don’t know why we were sharing our views to him, he doesn’t have any feelings... I don’t think he had any feelings at all.”

“I find the question you are asking is a little selective,” University of North Dakota professor of philosophy and religion, Jack Russell Weinstein, said. “You’re invoking the slippery slope, which is not a proper argument.”

Weinstein belongs to one of up to 35 Jewish households in the state, he said, and has reported instances of hate crimes directed at his family including nearby residents painting swastikas on his sidewalk.

“Hate crimes are based on an ideology, a world view, a philosophic view,” Weinstein said. “When you frame it as an exercise of free speech then you are not talking about the same thing we are.

“Every civil right comes with an act of civil responsibility,” he said. “Rights are a way of guaranteeing people can live together. We don’t get to say anything we want.”

“I think I did say there is a difference between speech and conduct,” Chapman said. “People are allowed to have repugnant ideas and hold bigoted opinions, even if I don’t agree with them.”

The argument that hate crime laws would inconvenience people practicing free speech pales in comparison to those who have been on the receiving end their entire lives – Native people, African American, LGBTQ, transgender, New Americans, and more, Buffalo said.

In recent years, the state has had multiple instances of hate speech at times leading to acts of violence including: August 2015 when Makruun Hagar had his nose bitten off, or in August 2017 when Rowda Soyan and two other Muslim women had their lives threatened in a Walmart parking lot. Or when Alma Cipranic had bacon placed on her car in 2019, or when someone put dog excrement in Yusuf Mohamed’s car on a hot summer day in 2017.

Such instances placed North Dakota as second in the nation for hate crimes per capita in 2015.

“Hate crimes do occur in North Dakota,” Barry Nelson of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition said. “We’ve had high profile hate crimes here in Fargo, which opened my eyes to the whole process to which our community doesn’t deal with hate crimes.”

Nelson pointed to the militarized approach law enforcement took with activists during the DAPL controversy in Standing Rock in 2016 and 2017.

“I’m embarrassed to say that police did not even recognize these as hate crimes,” Nelson said. “State legislators refuse to extend protections of employment and housing to LGBT and gender identity individuals. North Dakota has created a climate to allow hate crimes to exist.”

According to the U.S. Federal Register’s website, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was first established under the Civil Rights Act of 1957. They collect and study information and data on discrimination or unequal protections based on racial, religious and gender identities, as well as age, sexual orientation, disability, national origin.

The Commission also collects and studies information in areas such as voting rights, education, employment and housing.

Each state has a federally mandated advisory committee that gathers information and uses it to advise the Commission about their state’s civil rights issues. Their main methods of gathering information are to hold briefings with public testimonies and produce reports for the Commission.

People on the state Advisory Committees are appointed according to their demonstrated interest in civil rights. The Commission selects applicants who are from diverse professional and personal experiences and those who have varying viewpoints.

The North Dakota Advisory Committee was established on January 1st, 1957 and, like other states, aims to meet for a minimum of twice each year, and more depending on what resources are available.

The North Dakota Advisory Committee will be discussing options and prepare recommendations for the next legislative session in 2021. 

Recently in:

MOORHEAD - As a young boy growing up in Kurdish-controlled Iraq, Jahwar Salih played soccer and tennis, dreamed of a college education. Those dreams were smashed after he turned 16; he picked up an AK-47 and joined the Peshmerga to…

By the time Butch Patrick was cast with the iconic role of Eddie Munster the wolfboy son on the classic television program “The Munsters,” he was a seasoned child actor. Starring in television roles on such programs as…

Best Bets

​Lick Narson

by HPR Staff

The Aquarium, 3rd Ave & BroadwayWednesday, October 23, 9 p.m.-2 a.m.The talented songwriter, local favorite and DJ hosting the Cult of Lick EP launch party. Electronic dance music but now striking out in new directions. Our…

Last week we had the opportunity to attend the Climate Change Forum at Standing Rock High School in Fort Yates. If there was one word to describe the experience it would be inspiring. Tribal elders, Executive Director of…

American Health Care—From Tropical Paradise To the Bottomless Muddy MuckWe have the best medical care in the world for the 10% who can afford it and the worst care for the bottom 90% among the Organization of Economic Cooperation…

To say that this year’s Bartenders Battle was the best display of talent in the six years since its creation would be an understatement and a disservice to not only the bartenders who made it into the competition, but also the…

By Jill Finkelsonjsfinkelson99@gmail.comThe unassuming old truck shop on First and University is now frying up Funky Fried Chicken for Fargo. Their menu features chicken tenders and sandwiches with a selection of sides like pimento…

Music

10 years of vinyl

by HPR Contributor

By Jill Fikelsonjsfinkelson99@gmail.comDean Sime has been collecting records since he was in sixth grade. Since then, he hasn’t stopped. Though he stopped working in a music store twenty years ago, he has spent the last ten years…

Admirers of previous television and film incarnations of Charles Addams’ legendary collection of macabre icons have another variation to contemplate, but the computer-animated feature from “Sausage Party” directors Conrad…

Arts

Folk arts make happy hearts

by HPR Contributor

By Lonna Whitinglonna@lonna.coNot long ago at a North Dakota nursing home located in Nelson County, a storyteller from The North Dakota Council on the Arts helped an elderly woman express in writing an important milestone from her…

By Michael Str!kemichaelstrike.solo@gmail.com“No one moves to Fargo to become a professional actor,” she said, but after starting Theatre B with her husband and a core ensemble of performers almost 18 years ago; Carrie…

Stand-up comedy is traditionally a one-way exchange. Outside of the odd question addressed to a random audience member, the limit of the spectators’ contribution to the conversation is their laughter at the comedy stylings being…

The famous 20th century Southern writer William Faulkner quipped, “Civilization begins with distillation.” Technically one brews beer instead of distilling it, but the sentiment still holds true. Fargo is no stranger to the…

Wellness

Yoga on the Farm

by Ryan Janke

Every Thursday evening during the month of June, Mara Solberg is inviting people to come out and try Yoga on the Farm. It is a unique yoga experience that was born from an idea that was proposed to Solberg.“I’ve been with Red…

by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…

By William Southworthwsouthwo@cord.eduThe United Kingdom has a new boss. Considered to by some to be a British counterpart to Trump, Boris Johnson is riding a wave of political discontent with a can-do attitude and bubbly stage…