In the mid-90’s, a group known as Zero Tolerance began posting homophobic fliers and other material around Minnesota State University, Mankato’s campus. The fliers, which often contained disturbing imagery and violent threats, started in the fall of 1994 and continued into 1996. In addition to targeted harassment againts LGBTQ individuals, two bomb threats made against LGBTQ events were connected to the group, including one made during an event featuring lesbian comic Gail Hand.
Unfortunately, local authorities were dismissive of concerns by LGBTQ individuals over the appearance of the fliers in spite of the violent imagery contained in them.
“This Zero Tolerance, whoever they are, has a right to their opinion and the right to express it,” said Jerry Huettl, the (then) Director of Mankato Public Safety told The Reporter back in 1995. “While the posters can be offensive, this group has the right to express where they disagree with [homosexuality.]”
While Zero Tolerance’s campaign of terror only lasted a few years, a new threat has apparently come to Manakato this past year.
This past year, reports on social media have been made of racist stickers being put up in Mankato parks. These stickers were apparently placed by a member or members of a white supremacist group known as Patriot Front, as the stickers contain the URL to the groups website.
Patriot Front is a fascist, white supremacist organization that formed in the wake of the Unite the Right rally that took place in 2017. According to current media reports, they appear to have about 200-300 members nationally.
In June of 2022, 31 of their members were arrested in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and charged with attempted riot. The event that they had apparently been hoping to disrupt was Coeur d’Alene’s LGBTQ pridefest. After Patriot Fronts’ members were arrested, Coeur d’Alene’s police department began receiving a large volume of anonymous death threats.
I,myself, was able to find three Patriot Front stickers in Riverfront Park the first time I took a walk to look for them. The stickers were mostly located on the backs of signs around Riverfront Park.
One sticker I found included the racist phrase, “Not stolen, conquered” in reference to the barbaric theft of Native American lands by European settlers. The phrase itself is weird because if you conquered another nation and took their lands, then logically wouldn’t you still be stealing from them? In legal terms it would be like a defendant saying, “it wasn’t theft your honor, it was robbery!”
I reported the stickers to the Mankato government website and received a follow up email a few days later that they had been removed.
As the safety coordinator on the committee that organizes Mankato’s LGBTQ pridefest, I find the presence of graffiti from an organization whose members have previously been arrested for attempting to disrupt a LGBTQ pridefest so recently, somewhat disconcerting. Especially since I spotted that graffiti in the very location where Mankato’s pridefest has been held in recent years. (please note, any opinions in this column are my own and not intended to reflect the opinions of anyone else or any organization)
Fortunately further walks through Riverfront and other local parks have not revealed any further instances of Patriot Front graffiti.
While the graffiti was swiftly removed and the follow up call I made to the Department of Public Safety was taken seriously enough by the officer I spoke with, I do still feel that there is a possibility here for history to repeat itself. I am not entirely certain at this point that the city is willing to see Patriot Fronts’ activities as more serious than an issue of simple vandalism.
To this date, no one has been identified as a member of Zero Tolerance, in spite of the multiple bomb threats that they ended up making. I do not wish for another organization to have the opportunity to make a similar campaign of terror against minorities here in Mankato.
As such, I urge the Mankato city government and the Department of Public safety to not repeat the mistakes they made with how they dealt with Zero Tolerance. Instead they must work swiftly to identify those who supporting Patriot Front locally in order to ensure that they do not have the opportunity to mimic Zero Tolerances campaign of terror against other groups in the present.
Header Photo: A sticker that directs viewers to the PatriotFront website was found in Riverfront Park in Mankato. (Jeremy Redlien/The Reporter)
Write to Jeremy Redlien at firstname.lastname@example.org