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American Crystal suspends employee over Facebook threats against Dakota Access protesters

MOORHEAD, Minn.--American Crystal Sugar Co. has suspended an employee pending an investigation into a Facebook post he made while off work condemning protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

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Bags that have been filled with sugar are carried along on a conveyor belt to be sealed by another machine at the American Crystal Sugar processing plant in Moorhead. Forum photo by Dave Wallis

MOORHEAD, Minn.-American Crystal Sugar Co. has suspended an employee pending an investigation into a Facebook post he made while off work condemning protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

The post, which appeared Friday night, Nov. 25, mixed profanity with violent racist remarks, including the phrases "kill your Standing Rock" and "mow them down."

American Crystal Sugar responded to numerous complaints on its company Facebook page, including an announcement posted Monday, Nov. 28, informing the public of its response to the comments of the worker, whom the company declined to identify.

"We find these comments reprehensible," American Crystal said on Facebook, where the firestorm of criticism erupted. "American Crystal Sugar Company takes this matter very seriously, and we are conducting an investigation. In light of the circumstances, we have removed the employee from the workplace while we confirm the facts."

Although American Crystal Sugar would not confirm the employee's identity, angry Facebook readers posted his comments and Facebook profile, which listed his job as a yard coordinator at American Crystal Sugar.

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Lisa Borgen, American Crystal Sugar's vice president of administration, said Tuesday, Nov. 29, that she understands why so many people were "deeply offended," but said the employee made the remarks away from work on his personal time.

"We took action," she said. "We responded to people's concerns. I believe we responded appropriately. Basically, the firestorm has subsided."

Complaints about the employee's comments came swiftly, starting over the Thanksgiving weekend, with some commenters threatening to boycott American Crystal Sugar.

"When you come out of the food coma you should address the hate speech, threats of violence, and promises to murder pipeline protesters" by your employee, one irate person wrote.

Another wrote to urge that the employee be fired. "You don't need your company any more associated with a hateful bigot" like the employee. "Sad that something like this reflects on your company when it shouldn't as I'm sure you guys don't share the same views as him. Good luck with him."

American Crystal Sugar responded to many of the complaints. "Please be assured that we are not taking the matter lightly," the company repeatedly wrote. "Thank you for your input. We appreciate you for taking the time to express your concern regarding this issue."

Borgen said: "We totally believe the comments were inappropriate and deeply offensive. We are doing an investigation."

Criticisms about the employee's conduct on his own time that were posted on American Crystal Sugar's Facebook page were "misplaced," Borgen said. "However, we wanted to make sure we were responding to people who were legitimately outraged," she added.

Patrick Springer first joined The Forum in 1985. He covers a wide range of subjects including health care, energy and population trends. Email address: pspringer@forumcomm.com
Phone: 701-367-5294
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