NEW ULM — The New Ulm Human Rights Commission sent a letter to the city manager and New Ulm Park and Recreation Department asking that removing hate speech painted on public property be done so promptly.
“The quicker we get rid of something like that it sends a message to the community that we’re not going to accept hate speech in New Ulm,” said Lawrence Czer, chair of the commission and an English professor at Martin Luther College.
The commission voted unanimously to send the letter during a special meeting held Wednesday night.
Around July 4 someone painted white supremacist and Nazi messages at New Ulm’s Art Wall Park, including a drawing of Adolf Hitler with a body shaped like a swastika, the N-word and other scattered swastikas.
The graffiti was not immediately covered over, so some residents took it upon themselves to paint over it. Last weekend some more hate messages were painted and parks employees quickly painted over them. There has been no additional graffiti reported since.
The messages were on a high-profile wall on a bike trail frequently used by residents and visitors.
Czer said he doesn’t believe the city or parks department deliberately reacted slowly the first time.
“I know they have complicating issues with personnel and the COVID situation, and they had projects scheduled and their budget is tight, too, because of the pandemic. So we’re just hoping to encourage them to take it seriously and get things taken care of quickly.”
The police also have stepped up night patrols in the area.
Czer said there have been hate speech posts on social media floating around the community as well. He said some started in response to peaceful protesters who held up signs in support of social justice. Some of the posts even encouraged violence against peaceful protesters, he said.
“Given recent politics, I think it gives people the freedom to say whatever they want without considering the consequences of their actions.”
New Ulm is often referred to as “the most German community in America.” More than 90% of New Ulm residents were once of German ancestry and the number is now at more than 60%. About 38% of Minnesotans list themselves as having German ancestry.
The Human Rights Commission also is also partnering with Equality from New Ulm, New Ulm Forward and the New Ulm Police Department to release public service announcements regarding new lawn signs. The signs read: “If you want peace, work for justice.”
The commission said there has been confusion about the signs and that they are not intended to be anti-police or critical of New Ulm police and City Council.