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Calls continue for Christianson's resignation from Willmar council

Shelby Lindrud / Tribune It was a full house Monday at the Willmar City Council meeting, as members of the public continued to speak out against Councilor Ron Christianson and the comments he apparently liked on Facebook. Also attending the meeting were members of Boy Scout Troop 224 working on a “Citizenship in the Community” merit badge.

WILLMAR — Members of the public again filled the Willmar City Council chambers, with several speaking out Monday night against Councilman Ron Christianson and his alleged liking of Facebook posts that people are calling racist and Islamophobic.

Two speakers read passages from the Facebook page in question and then asked Christianson which parts of those comments he supports, comments which included lines about the intelligence of immigrants and how Muslims are a dangerous threat.

In a December interview with KWLM Radio, Christianson said he could "like" a post but not support everything in it.

"What part did you support?" Hamdi Kosar asked.

As is usual council practice, no council member nor the mayor commented during the open forum when members of the public were speaking. Christianson also did not comment at the end of the meeting, when council members are given the opportunity to speak on any topic they wish to raise.

"Every single line in that post is that of racism, Islamophobia, lie. So liking this post makes you a racist," said Dulce Alvarez, adding this is not a liberal conspiracy against Christianson. Instead, she said, he chose to like those comments and now shows no remorse. "You need to resign, please."

There were no speakers in support of Christianson at Monday's meeting, but supporters have spoken at past meetings.

Abdiweli Yusuf, who stated he lives in Ward 2, Christianson's ward, also called for the councilor's resignation, saying he has failed as a council person because he does not seem to represent all who live in the city he serves.

"It is unacceptable and embarrassing for the city of Willmar," Yusuf said. "This community deserves better than what Ron Christianson says. We are all brothers and sisters and we all need to hold our hands together."

A representative of the faith-based coalition ISAIAH, Christina Nelson, shared the group's concerns about what has been going on the past several weeks.

"In the book of Isaiah we are called as people of faith to be repairers of the breach. The untruths and generalities made about our neighbors have created a breach. Words of hurt, division and fear have been spoken," Nelson said.

ISAIAH is calling for the city leaders, especially those on the City Council, to speak words of reconciliation and repair. To do this the group presented the council with a resolution they would like the council to consider and approve.

The resolution would declare the city of Willmar a community where people can be free to pursue the American dream no matter their age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, religion or country of origin.

"Be it resolved, that the Willmar City Council, as representatives of the city of Willmar, hereby declare and resolve the city of Willmar to be a welcoming city to all who wish to come and contribute to the public good and future success of the community," Nelson read from the proposed resolution.

Councilor Shawn Mueske, at the conclusion of the council meeting, asked that the resolution be brought to the next work session of the council.

"It is obvious there is a struggle. I think I heard something that could be progress," Mueske said.

Councilor Andrew Plowman thanked everyone who attended the meeting and for being part of the process.

"It is really important for our community to show up and represent," Plowman said.

Also at the meeting Monday night were members of Boy Scout Troop 224, of Calvary Lutheran Church. Part of receiving the "Citizenship in the Community" merit badge is to attend a local government meeting.

"What a great example for our Boy Scouts, to see the public process happening and also to see that our citizens do have a voice," Councilor Kathy Schwantes said.