When Mankato needed zero tolerance for Zero Tolerance

Content Note: The following column discusses in depth threats of violence made against LGBTQ individuals. Selected quotes with slurs are used in this article.

On Apr. 1, a bomb threat was made against the Minnesota State University, Mankato community. As of the writing of this column, little information has been shared with the public regarding who made the threat or why.

Decades ago, in the mid 90s a series of bomb threats was made specificically against MSU’s LGBTQ community. For several years, a group, or possibly a very dedicated but otherwise singular individual, going by the name Zero Tolerance, left threatening anti-queer fliers and stickers around campus.

No members were ever publicly identified, but they were known for leaving anti-lgbtq propaganda and fliers all around campus, starting in October of 1994 with a flier slid underneath the door of the Alternative Lifestyles Office, now known as the LGBT Center. 

Their activities culminated in a bomb threat made in the middle of an event by lesbian comedian Gail Hand in April of 1996. According to The Reporter article about the incident, that bomb threat was the third threat made against LGBTQ or feminist related events that year.

The first bomb threat made by Zero Tolerance was in Febuary of 1995 during an event called “What Needs to Happen to Make This Campus More Queer Friendly”. Fliers were first discovered at the event from Zero Tolerance which read, “Faggot free zone. No more lezbos, no more fags! Get your ugly ass off campus now!” before the event began. The bomb threat was called in to University Security while the event was in progress.

The fliers for Zero Tolerance tended to show up around Coming Out Week and other LGBTQ related events. While they tended to target the LGBTQ community, their material was also frequently sexist and racist.

While no individual was publicly identified as being a member of Zero Tolerance, Mankato Department of Public Safety claimed they were investigating a lead at the time involving Last Days Ministries, but no connection was ever confirmed.

Of course, threats against the local LGBTQ communities were not unique to Zero Tolerance. Jim Chalgren, the founder of MSU’s LGBT Center, was also the victim of multiple threats.

In an interview Chalgren gave in 1997 with Q Monthly writer Viki Galliard he said, “It was routine to get a death threat at least once a week, something like “fags should die” or “I should come over and slit your throat right now. I know who you are and I know where you live.”

In 2018, two different lesbian couples in St. Peter were the targets of letters that threatened extreme acts of violence against them including the threat to murder one of the lesbian’s unborn child. One of the letters also contained a threat to commit a mass shooting at a local LGBTQ pride event.

I know of other prominent, and not so prominent, LGBTQ individuals who have been the victims of threats and intimidation. Furthermore, I know one local LGBTQ activist who had an actual stalker. This goes to show how prevalent this issue still is in the Mankato community.

Of course, the violence faced by LGBTQ individuals is not limited to simple threats. I know of one transgender individual from Mankato who was subjected to corrective rape and another who was physically assualted. In 1981, Henry “Bud” Quimby, a gay radio DJ was murdered in North Mankato and in 1987, David Wagner was also murdered in Mankato because of his sexuality.

I believe there will come a day where LGBTQ individuals will be able to live in a world without having to fear violence being directed against us because we chose to be ourselves. Too bad that day is not today.

Header Photo: Section of The Reporter that was published on Feb. 23, 1995 with photo of a flier announcing the bomb threat against the event “What Needs to Happen to Make This Campus More Queer Friendly.” (The Reporter Archives)

Write to Jeremy Redlien at Jeremy.Redlien@mnsu.edu

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