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CAIR-MN calling for hate crime charges in Willmar incident

WILLMAR — At approximately 11 a.m. Saturday, Willmar law enforcement were called to the farmer's market on Lakeland Drive on a report that an individual had allegedly been cursing at a young adult male Somali-American selling vegetables at a stand. According to law enforcement reports, he then threw a pig's foot at the Somali.

The Willmar Police Department has identified the man as Joseph Fernkes, 61, of Willmar.

Now, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR-MN, is asking Fernkes to be charged with a hate crime.

"If you curse a person's faith and then throw an object clearly designed to offend and intimidate, you should be charged with a hate crime," said CAIR-MN Civil Rights Director Amir Malik, in a press release.

According to a press release from the Willmar Police department, several witnesses saw and heard the incident and some provided photos of Fernkes, who left the area on a wheelchair scooter.

Willmar Police were able to locate Fernkes and issued a citation for disorderly conduct, which does require a court appearance.

Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor crime in Minnesota and if the crime was not witnessed by a licensed officer, it is not an arrestable offense, the police release said.

The release from CAIR said Fernkes had been cursing Islam's Prophet Muhammad and using anti-Muslim slurs. Also, Muslims do not consume pork products and bigots often use pigs or pork products to offend Muslim sensibilities, the CAIR press release said.

The national CAIR organization has reported a 91 percent increase in anti-Muslim incidents in the second quarter of 2017 over the same period in 2016.

The case has been forwarded to the courts, and Fernkes' first court date is still pending, according to Willmar Police.

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