Pointing to a clip from a March 2020 episode of “The View,” in which McCain said she had no problem with then-President Trump referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus,” the British comedian said McCain’s post was “a fine sentiment to throw up on Twitter after the fact.”
“But there has to be an understanding that saying, ‘I don’t have a problem with calling it the China virus’ is very much giving space for that hate to grow,” Oliver added.
His segment prompted McCain to issue a statement Monday morning.
“I condemn the reprehensible violence and vitriol that has been targeted towards the Asian-American community,” she wrote in a message shared on Twitter. “There is no doubt Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric fueled many of these attacks and I apologize for any past comments that aided that agenda.”
After an official described the Atlanta shooter’s decision to kill eight people as “a really bad day for him,” McCain again took to Twitter. “You know who it was also a bad day for?” she wrote March 17. “The eight people and their families who this man killed!”
“Stop giving radicalized white men different allowances than any of us would have,” McCain added. “When I have a bad day, I eat ice cream and watch Tommy Boy, not gun down innocent people. Bulls—!”
“For many of us in our community, this is the first time we are even able to voice our fear and our anger, and I really am so grateful for everyone willing to listen,” Oh said at Saturday’s demonstration in Pittsburgh.
If employees actually had to pee in bottles, Amazon said, “nobody would work for us.” That’s a lie.
In anticipation of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s scheduled trip to Bessemer, Alabama, to support the unionization drive by Amazon workers there, Amazon executive Dave Clark cast the $1 trillion behemoth as “the Bernie Sanders of employers” and taunted: “So if you want to hear about $15 an hour and health care, Senator Sanders will be speaking downtown. But if you would like to make at least $15 an hour and have good health care, Amazon is hiring.”
Rep. Mark Pocan replied via tweet: “Paying workers $15/hr doesn’t make you a progressive workplace when you union-bust & make workers urinate in water bottles,” echoing reports from 2018 that Amazon workers were forced to skip bathroom breaks and pee in bottles. Amazon’s denial was swift: “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us.”
But Amazon workers with whom I spoke said that the practice was so widespread due to pressure to meet quotas that managers frequently referenced it during meetings and in formal policy documents and emails, which were provided to The Intercept. The practice, these documents show, was known to management, which identified it as a recurring infraction but did nothing to ease the pressure that caused it. In some cases, employees even defecated in bags.
Amazon did not provide a statement to The Intercept before publication.
One document from January, marked “Amazon Confidential,” details various infractions by Amazon employees, including “public urination” and “public defecation.” The document was provided to The Intercept by an Amazon employee in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who, like most of the employees I talked to, was granted anonymity to avoid professional reprisal.
The employee also provided an email sent by an Amazon logistics area manager last May that chastised employees for defecating into bags. “This evening, an associate discovered human feces in an Amazon bag that was returned to station by a driver. This is the 3rd occasion in the last 2 months when bags have been returned to station with poop inside. We understand that DA’s [driver associates] may have emergencies while on-road, and especially during Covid, DAs have struggled to find bathrooms while delivering.”
“We’ve noticed an uptick recently of all kinds of unsanitary garbage being left inside bags: used masks, gloves, bottles of urine,” the email continues. “By scanning the QR code on the bag, we can easily identify the DA who was in possession of the bag last. These behaviors are unacceptable, and will result in Tier 1 Infractions going forward. Please communicate this message to your drivers. I know if may seem obvious, or like something you shouldn’t need to coach, but please be explicit when communicating the message that they CANNOT poop, or leave bottles of urine inside bags.”
Halie Marie Brown, a 26-year-old resident of Manteca, California, who worked as a delivery driver for an Amazon delivery contractor, Soon Express, until quitting on March 12, told The Intercept that the practice “happens because we are literally implicitly forced to do so, otherwise we will end up losing our jobs for too many ‘undelivered packages.’”
An email that Brown received from her manager this past August has a section titled “Urine bottle” and states: “In the morning, you must check your van thoroughly for garbage and urine bottle. If you find urine bottle (s) please report to your lead, supporting staff or me. Vans will be inspected by Amazon during debrief, if urine bottle (s) are found, you will be issue an infraction tier 1 for immediate offboarding.”
While Amazon technically prohibits the practice — documents characterize it as a “Tier 1” infraction, which employees say can lead to termination — drivers said that this was disingenuous since they can’t meet their quotas otherwise. “They give us 30 minutes of paid breaks, but you will not finish your work if you take it, no matter how fast you are,” one Amazon delivery employee based in Massachusetts told me.
Asked if management eased up on the quotas in light of the practice, Brown said, “Not at all. In fact, over the course of my time there, our package and stop counts actually increased substantially.”
This has gotten even more intense, employees say, as Amazon has seen an enormous boom in package orders during the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon employees said their performance is monitored so closely by the firm’s vast employee surveillance arsenal that they are constantly in fear of falling short of their productivity quotas.
One email, provided to The Intercept by a Houston-based driver associate who works for an Amazon contractor, alludes to company cameras that can find workers who leave urine bottles behind in the vans. “Data from these cameras can be sent to Amazon in the event of any incident on the road. (We have had several bad accidents, a stolen van, drivers leaving piss bottles etc in the vans).”
The employee said, “Every single day of my shift, I have to use the restroom in a bottle to finish my route on time. This is so common that you’ll often find bottles from other drivers located under seats in the vans. … The fact that Amazon would tweet that is hilarious.”
Public reports that Amazon employees skipped bathroom breaks originated in a 2018 book by the British journalist James Bloodworth. That book, “Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain,” alleged that Amazon workers at a warehouse in Staffordshire, U.K., resorted to urinating in bottles in order to meet production quotas. While most of the employees I spoke to were drivers who delivered products, workers said the practice was commonplace in factories as well.
The vote by Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama on whether to unionize has become a flashpoint for organized labor. While Amazon has publicly criticized Sanders, he is far from the only prominent politician to voice support for the employees’ right to form a union. Last month, President Joe Biden released a video statement saying, “Every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union,” which “should be made without intimidation or threats by employers.”
The election, which ends on March 29, would determine if the more than 5,000 warehouse workers will join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. None of Amazon’s 800,000 employees in the U.S. are currently unionized.
A Cherokee County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office spokesperson came under fire Wednesday afternoon for pinning the deadly Tuesday shooting rampage that left eight dead—including six Asian women—on a 21-year-old white man’s “really bad day.”
“Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did,” Jay Baker said during the joint news conference with the Atlanta Police Department about 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long.
But it seems the same spokesperson shared racist content online, including pointing the finger at China for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic—the same vitriol advocates say has fueled a horrific surge in violence against Asian Americans.
In a Facebook page associated with Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office, several photos show the law enforcer was promoting T-shirts with the slogan “COVID-19 imported virus from CHY-NA.”
“Place your order while they last,” Baker wrote with a smiley face on a March 30 photo that included the racist T-shirts.
“Love my shirt,” Baker wrote in another post in April 2020. “Get yours while they last.’”
The shirts appear to be printed by Deadline Appeal, owned by a former deputy sheriff from Cherokee County, and sold for $22. The store, which promotes fully customizable gear, also appears to print shirts for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard, a “ceremonial unit, all volunteers, who represent not only the Sheriff’s Office but also the county when participating in a variety of events,” according to a March 10 Instagram post.
The photos on Baker’s account were first spotted by a Twitter user.
Multiple photos on the Facebook page show Baker in his uniform and attending sheriff’s department functions, including one with his name tag clearly visible. Baker did not immediately respond to requests for comment on his personal cell phone and to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s office.
When contacted by The Daily Beast, Sheriff Frank Reynolds, who appears to be friends with Baker on Facebook, said he was not familiar with the racist photos.
“I am not aware of that. I will have to contact him, but thank you for bringing that to my attention,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds’ official sheriff’s department page lists as part of his prior experience a 2005 to 2008 stint at the Department of State described entirely in abbreviations: WPPS HTP, IC BWUSA. This would appear to stand for Worldwide Personal Protective Services, a contract the federal government granted the independent contractor Blackwater USA. His campaign page alludes to work in Iraq without naming his employer. But an apparent Reynolds supporter and fellow member of the department shared an image on Facebook of then-candidate’s security clearance so as to dispel rumors that he had a criminal record in 2016. The image, naming Reynolds, showed a contract number corresponding to an indefinite arrangement the State Department inked with Blackwater to provide security guards and control services in 2005.
Blackwater became infamous after its private guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007. There is at present no evidence linking Reynolds to that incident, and he did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
The massacre at three Asian massage parlors comes amid a shocking wave of anti-Asian violence in the United States. Authorities say Long, the suspect in the grisly crimes, insisted he was not intentionally targeting people of Asian descent. Still, police—including Baker—said the investigation was ongoing and the murders could still be categorized as a hate crime.
The fact that Long allegedly targeted Asian massage parlors and killed a half-dozen Asian women has spurred uproar online and among community leaders. Nearly 3,800 incidents of anti-Asian hate were reported between March 2020 and last month, according to Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition documenting discrimination during the pandemic.
During a Wednesday news conference, Baker seemed to downplay Long’s alleged actions, telling reporters the 21-year-old attributed the crimes to his “sexual addiction” issues. Baker said Long targeted the spas to “take out that temptation.”
Baker’s adopted brother, Anthony Baker, is a Georgia Superior Court judge—and, according to a profile published in January, was born in Vietnam to a woman there who had married an American soldier.
Until the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, the Green Book was critical for black Americans wanting to travel across the country.
Road tripping in the 20th century became an iconic American obsession, and the rising middle class was eager to travel the country on the new interstate highway system. The Green Book was a unique travel guide during this time, when segregation was practiced all over the country.
The book, which grew to cover locations in all 50 states, listed hotels, restaurants, gas stations, beauty salons, and other services that would reliably serve African Americans. The listings grew from user correspondence and a network of African American postal workers under the guidance of Victor Hugo Green, the book’s publisher.
The American road trip would go on to be an anchor in the civil rights discussion, as it highlighted the injustices and prejudice that African Americans suffered under Jim Crow. Before the Civil Rights Act outlawed racial discrimination in public accommodations, Victor Green’s booklet helped black Americans navigate their country.
This week, the Biden administration announced that it would resume efforts to put the image of Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, a move first championed by the Obama administration in 2016. Biden press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the Treasury Department is “exploring ways to speed up” the process to ensure the 19th century freedom fighter is recognized.
“It’s important that our notes, our money — if people don’t know what a note is — reflect the history and diversity of our country,” Psaki said during a White House press briefing. “Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that.”
Many initially praised the move put forth by Obama-era Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to highlight the American abolitionist. To supporters, the idea of having Tubman, herself an ex-slave, replace former President Andrew Jackson, a slave owner, is a bold rebuke to an ugly era in American history.
But some Black activists say putting Tubman on the $20 bill is an uneasy fit with her legacy.
“Harriet Tubman did not fight for capitalism, free trade or competitive markets,” Feminista Jones, an activist, author and advocate, wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post in 2015.
“She repeatedly put herself in the line of fire to free people who were treated as currency themselves,” Jones added. “She risked her life to ensure that enslaved Black people would know they were worth more than the blood money that exchanged hands to buy and sell them. I do not believe Tubman, who died impoverished in 1913, would accept the ‘honor.’”
Tubman, born into slavery around 1822, was the fourth of nine children, and grew up working in cotton fields in Dorchester County, Md. In 1849, Tubman escaped her plantation under the cover of darkness, following the North Star to Philadelphia, and at 27 years old began working as a maid. After saving enough money the following year, she returned to the South to liberate her sister’s family. Over the next 10 years, Tubman helped more than 700 slaves escape to freedom, becoming the most well known of the Underground Railroad’s “conductors.”
Jones, in an interview with Yahoo News this week, questioned why putting Tubman on a bill would honor her legacy.
“Why would we want to put somebody who fought for freedom from this kind of capitalist oppression?” Jones asked. “Why would we want to take her image and then make her the face of this thing that so many people lack access to?”
“I’ve studied Harriet Tubman extensively,” she added. “If there’s one thing that I understand, is that she did not get recognized for all of the amazing things that she did. She died a pauper, and she was a U.S. veteran. The [country] should have honored her as a veteran. She was the only woman to lead a raid for the Union Army. That in itself is just an amazing accomplishment for the all-women crowd. So why not acknowledge that?”
Instead of putting a Black woman, or any woman of color, on a note, Jones says Black women merely want to be valued equitably in society.
“When it comes to representation, I’ll be quite honest, I don’t care much about it,” Jones said. “Representation without action, without policy change, without improvement of daily life means nothing to me.”
Historically, Black women have made a fraction of what white men and women make, despite being the most educated population in the country. For every dollar a white man earns for work in the United States, a white woman earns 79 cents and a Black woman earns just 62 cents, according to a 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics report.
The median net worth of Black women in America paints an even grimmer picture. Single Black women ages 20 to 39 with children but without a bachelor’s degree have a median net worth of $0, according to a 2017 report from the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity. Single Black women ages 20 to 39 with a bachelor’s degree fare even worse, having a median net worth range of -$11,000 to $0. White women, on the other hand, fare considerably better. Single white women ages 20 to 39 with a bachelor’s degree have a median net worth range of $3,400 to $7,500.
The push to have Tubman on the $20 bill was initially set to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffrage movement in 2020. But the year came and went without any revision to the $20 bill.
The plan to put Tubman on the $20 bill stalled under the Trump administration. Donald Trump, while still a candidate in 2016, called the push to replace Jackson with Tubman “pure political correctness.” He hailed Jackson as his political hero and installed a portrait of the former president in the Oval Office amid criticism from some historians and activists who noted that Jackson, in addition to being a slave owner, committed genocide against Native Americans.
However, not everyone is so supportive of the move. Ashley Stevens, a Black Twitter user with a substantial following, said she thinks “there’s some sort of perversion” in putting Tubman on the bill.
“A woman who was traded as capital becoming the face of capital doesn’t sit right with my spirit,” Stevens said Monday in a tweet that went viral. “If you wanna honor Tubman there are much better ways to do so that would change the material benefits of people’s lives. Build schools, parks, a historical center, etc in her name. Putting her face on the 20 dollar bill isn’t even a feel good. It’s giving me the yucks.”
When one thinks of the transcontinental railroad, rarely do Chinese migrants come to mind. But in a new exhibition at the National Museum of American History in Washington, a vital revision is presented.
But this exhibition takes a different tack, tracing the forgotten Chinese workers who built the western leg of the railroad across the Sierra Nevada mountains, connecting the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroad in 1869.
“Historians have always known and written about the Chinese workers, but it’s forgotten by society,” said Peter Liebhold, who co-curated the exhibit with Sam Vong. “We’ve forgotten the contribution of these workers, and in fact, we forget the contribution of all workers. We tend to focus on the achievement of the few and not the stories of the average everyday person.”
Ittells the story of Chinese workers through old maps, detailing where they worked, their labor materials – from conical hats to miner’s picks – and photos, showing the tents they lived in, their working conditions and their nomadic lifestyle.
“The artifacts on view are meant to help visitors understand how forgotten workers had to endure hazardous, unfair conditions, in addition to backbreaking labor,” said Leibhold. “The 150th anniversary is not just about completing a railroad, but the workers involved.”
Chinese workers made up most of the workforce between roughly 700 miles of train tracks between Sacramento, California, and Promontory, Utah. During the 19th century, more than 2.5 million Chinese citizens left their country and were hired in 1864 after a labor shortage threatened the railroad’s completion.
The work was tiresome, as the railroad was built entirely by manual laborers who used to shovel 20 pounds of rock over 400 times a day. They had to face dangerous work conditions – accidental explosions, snow and rock avalanches, which killed hundreds of workers, not to mention frigid weather.
“All workers on the railroad were ‘other’,” said Liebhold. “On the west, there were Chinese workers, out east were Irish and Mormon workers were in the center. All these groups are outside the classical American mainstream.”
The exhibition features a century-old pair of chopsticks, as well as canisters for tea and soy sauce. The railroad company provided room and board to white workers, but Chinese workers had to find their own meals, which were often brought to them from local merchants.
There are also miner’s picks and shovels, conical hats, as well as photos of the camp sites where the workers lived in Nevada in 1869. There are photos, as well, of the Native Americans, many of whom protested against the building of the railway in 1869, which displaced the Lakota, Shoshone, Cheyenne and other communities.
The Chinese workers were educated and organized; 3,000 laborers went on strike in 1867 to demand equal wages, as the white workers were paid double.
“They were unsuccessful because they were out in the middle of nowhere,” said Liebhold. “The railroad stopped them from getting food. That’s one way it failed.”
One telling photo on view is a shot of the Union Pacific board members sitting in a business class train car from 1869. By paying laborers a low wage, they were able to skim millions from the construction and get rich.
“Building railroads is often profitable but operating them isn’t necessarily, if you look at the history of railroads in the US,” said Liebhold. “To totally condemn the businessmen is challenging because they took huge risks raising money to build a railroad that was astronomically difficult. Many people didn’t think it was possible.”
There is one photo from 1869 that shows how the company commemorated the last hammered spike to complete the railroad, however, only one Chinese worker is in the photo. Many of the actual workers were left out.
This story could still be one which resonates with today’s America. “There’s no question this is a story about migrant labor,” he said. “Chinese workers were not citizens, weren’t allowed to become citizens. From the 1850s to 1882, they were tolerated in the US, but not accepted as peers.
“Then, there was the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred immigrants from coming into US, unless you were a diplomat or a businessperson,” said Liebhold. “You’re always welcome if you’re affluent, then you’re allowed to come in.”
Some Asian American community leaders say Elaine Chao’s resignation as transportation secretary after the riot at the U.S. Capitol is inadequate after years of harm to marginalized groups and the immigrant community — of which she is a part.
Chao, who officially left her role Monday, is one of the few Asian American immigrants to have ascended to such heights in government. But activists say she leaves behind a legacy of complicity with anti-immigrant, racist policies as a loyal Trump administration official.
Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the social services nonprofit Asian American Federation, said that at this point, regardless of her exit, “damage has been done” to her reputation and credibility.
“Elaine Chao was complicit in creating a politics of toxicity and cynicism. Her decision can only be seen in that context,” Yoo said. “Her dissent was needed when Trump degraded, ostracized and isolated the Asian American community with his Covid-19 misinformation and outright racism or in any of the instances when Trump sought to hurt immigrants like herself.”
Chao, who said in her resignation statement that the violence at the Capitol last week had “deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside,” previously made history as the first Asian American woman to hold a Cabinet position. She hasn’t been afraid of opening up about her immigrant roots and her difficult early years in America. Chao, 67, came to the U.S. from Taiwan when she was 8 years old, speaking no English.
“I think you will understand when I say that our initial years in America were very challenging,” Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told the newly naturalized citizens. “We didn’t speak English, had no family or friends here, couldn’t get used to the food nor understand the customs here.”
Her rise from her immigrant roots has made her a role model for some Asian American families. In an interview with CNN in 2017, Chao said that those from the community would show up anywhere, from public events to the airport, to greet her and that she would feel an “instant bond.” Activists say her actions have proven anything but supportive to immigrant communities.
Chao came under fire several times during Trump’s tenure for staying silent as he tried to institute hard-line immigration policies. In 2017, several Asian American organizations called on Chao to oppose Trump’s termination of the Temporary Protected Status programs for several countries, including Sudan, Nicaragua and Haiti. Temporary Protected Status is typically given to countries where conditions prevent nationals from returning.
They also demanded that she speak out against Trump’s attempts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that year.
While the majority of so-called Dreamers hail from Latin America, about 16,000 undocumented Asian youths are protected under the act. And Asian Americans are the fastest-growing demographic of undocumented immigrants, their population tripling from 2000 to 2015. Chao, however, was mum about the subject.
She also remained silent about Trump’s public charge rule, which denies immigrants residency if they are deemed likely to need public assistance, among other controversial policies. More than 941,000 recent green card holders would have fallen under the rule had it been in effect when they applied, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonprofit policy organization. Of those, 300,000 are from Asian countries.
But Chao possibly drew the most criticism for migrant family separation. While she did not comment on her stance, she did fire back at protesters at Georgetown University who confronted her and McConnell about the policy in 2018 and asked, “Why are you separating families?”
Chao shouted back, “Leave my husband alone,” winning praise among conservatives.
“She effectively colluded with the Trump administration in increasing the separation of our families and rescinding of the DACA program, denying access to public benefits and much more,” said Becky Belcore, executive director of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, an advocacy organization that was among the groups that previously called on Chao to speak out against the immigration crackdowns.
“Chao was in a position of power that she could have leveraged to support the most marginalized members of our community,” Belcore said. “Instead, she was often seen standing next to Trump as he signed anti-immigrant policies into law.”
Advocates also said that in a particularly damning moment, Chao, a woman of color, stood by Trump at a news conference at Trump Tower in New York City as he neglected to call out hate groups and claimed that there were “very fine people on both sides” after white supremacists descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
While her husband, McConnell, had been feuding with Trump at the time, Chao told reporters at the news conference that she stood “by my man — both of them.” While it’s unclear whether Chao actively supported Trump or was required to do so in the moment as a Cabinet member, John C. Yang, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, said he believes her inaction had consequences.
“President Trump’s statement following the events in Charlottesville were reprehensible,” Yang said. “It is clear that his remarks were building to the insurrection we saw on Wednesday, and the failure of those around him to call out his behavior emboldened him. It is irresponsible and unconscionable for a sitting president of the United States to not only condone but to incite the behavior of people who are only concerned with holding on to white supremacist power.”
Belcore said she felt that Chao, who also served in a Cabinet position as labor secretary under former President George W. Bush, did not sufficiently protect vulnerable workers, including immigrants. But Yang said he felt that Trump’s “racism and xenophobia is toxic and dangerous, at a level not seen in recent presidencies,” taking more precedence compared to the Bush administration. He said that while immigrants and people of color were “under constant attack in dangerous ways” during Trump’s tenure, Chao was in a position in which she could have stood up more for marginalized people. He said it was “disappointing that she did not do so publicly.”
Yang acknowledged that Chao’s ascendance to a Cabinet position as an Asian American, a member of a community that continues to struggle with representation in the political sphere, was an accomplishment, but he said that doesn’t mean her conduct represented the community well. He said, moreover, that as Chao painted herself as a hard-working immigrant while supporting the administration’s anti-immigrant policies, she fed into the “good immigrant versus bad immigrant” myth.
When the church doors open, only white people will be allowed inside.
That’s the message the Asatru Folk Assembly in Murdock, Minnesota, is sending after being granted a conditional use permit to open a church there and practice its pre-Christian religion that originated in northern Europe.
Despite a council vote officially approving the permit this month, residents are pushing back against the decision.
Opponents have collected about 50,000 signatures on an online petition to stop the all-white church from making its home in the farming town of 280 people.
“I think they thought they could fly under the radar in a small town like this, but we’d like to keep the pressure on them,” said Peter Kennedy, a longtime Murdock resident. “Racism is not welcome here.”
Many locals said they support the growing population of Latinos, who have moved to the area in the past decade because of job opportunities, over the church.
“Just because the council gave them a conditional permit does not mean that the town and people in the area surrounding will not be vigilant in watching and protecting our area,” Jean Lesteberg, who lives in the neighboring town of De Graff, wrote on the city’s Facebook page.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Asatru Folk Assembly as a “neo-Volkisch hate group” that couches “their bigotry in baseless claims of bloodlines grounding the superiority of one’s white identity.”
Many residents call them a white supremacist or white separatist group, but church members deny it.
“We’re not. It’s just simply not true,” said Allen Turnage, a folk assembly board member. “Just because we respect our own culture, that doesn’t mean we are denigrating someone else’s.”
The group, based in Brownsville, California, says teachings and membership are for those of strictly European bloodlines.
The church was looking for a new church in the eastern North Dakota region when they came across Murdock. It’s unknown how many members they have worldwide or how many people will attend the new church.
“We do not need salvation. All we need is freedom to face our destiny with courage and honor,” the group wrote on its website about their beliefs. “We honor the Gods under the names given to them by our Germanic/Norse ancestors.”
Their forefathers, according to the website, were “Angels and Saxons, Lombards and Heruli, Goths and Vikings, and, as sons and daughters of these people, they are united by ties of blood and culture undimmed by centuries.”
“We respect the ways our ancestors viewed the world and approached the universe a thousand years ago,” Turnage said.
Murdock council members said they do not support the church but were legally obligated to approve the permit, which they did in a 3-1 decision.
“We were highly advised by our attorney to pass this permit for legal reasons to protect the First Amendment rights,” Mayor Craig Kavanagh said. “We knew that if this was going to be denied, we were going to have a legal battle on our hands that could be pretty expensive.”
City Attorney Don Wilcox said it came down to free speech and freedom of religion.
“I think there’s a great deal of sentiment in the town that they don’t want that group there,” he said. “You can’t just bar people from practicing whatever religion they want or saying anything they want as long as it doesn’t incite violence.”
The farming town about a 115-mile drive west of Minneapolis is known for producing corn and soybeans, which are shipped across the country. Latinos make up about 20 percent of Murdock’s small population. Many are day laborers from Mexico and Central America, city officials said.
“We’re a welcoming community,” Kennedy said, rejecting the Asatru Folk Assembly’s exclusionary beliefs. “That’s not at all what the people of Murdock feel. Nobody had a problem with the Hispanics here.”
The AFA purchased its building this year on property in a residential zone. Constructed as a Lutheran church before the zoning was changed, it was later converted to a private residence. The folk assembly needed the permit to convert the residence back to a church.
“It’s ironic the city council didn’t want to commit discrimination against the church, but the church is discriminating against Blacks,” said Abigail Suiter, 33, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “It’s very telling of where the priority is and whose lives matter.”
Prominent lawyers disagree on the council’s options heading into the vote. Some of the debate centered on the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which protects religious institutions and churches from unduly burdens and discriminatory land-use regulations.
Laurence H. Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, said the council might have been able to prevent the private sale of the property, had it known about it, through laws focused on forbidding racial discrimination in property transactions.
“No institution that proposes to exclude people on account of race is allowed to run an operation in the state of Minnesota,” Tribe said.
Kavanagh said he stands by the council vote “for legal reasons only.”
“The biggest thing people don’t understand is, because we’ve approved this permit, all of a sudden everyone feels this town is racist, and that isn’t the case,” he said. “Just because we voted yes doesn’t mean we’re racist.”
Philadelphia City Council voted Thursday to apologize for the MOVE bombing 35 years ago that left 11 people dead, including five children, and burned 61 homes in West Philadelphia.
The resolution, approved almost unanimously (Councilmember Brian O’Neill said he opposed it), represents the first formal apology offered by the city for the May 13, 1985, bombing. It also establishes the anniversary of the bombing as “an annual day of observation, reflection and recommitment.”
Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, whose West Philadelphia district includes the neighborhood destroyed by the bombing, sponsored the resolution. She introduced it days after the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. less than a mile away from the site of the bombing. She linked the two events in a speech to City Council last month.
“We can draw a straight line from the unresolved pain and trauma of that day to Walter Wallace Jr.’s killing earlier this week in the very same neighborhood,” Gauthier said. “Because what’s lying under the surface here is a lack of recognition of the humanity of Black people from law enforcement.”
In 1985, police dropped an explosive device on the roof of 6221 Osage Ave. after a daylong confrontation with the Black radical and naturalist group MOVE, as officers attempted to evict them from their compound. The majority of the victims were Black.
W. Wilson Goode Sr., who was mayor at the time, called on the city to issue a formal apology in an op-ed published by The Guardian before the 35th anniversary. “The event will remain on my conscience for the rest of my life,” he wrote.