Last August, Bluestem reported the curious (and anti-Muslim) behavior of Willmar resident Joe F. Fernkes in Don't hate with your food: Willmar anti-Muslim pig foot harassment tale hits Washington Post and Don't hate with your food, part 2: youth garden organizer speaks up on Willmar Farmers Market.
Now Fernkes' lawyer is asking Judge Michael Thompson in Kandiyohi County District Court to dismiss a misdemeanor disorderly conduct citation, claiming Fernkes was merely exercising his right to free speech when he bothered Muslim teens at a vegetable stand in Willmar's Farmers Market last summer.
The West Central Tribune's Anne Polta reports in Willmar man charged in anti-Muslim incident invokes right to free speech:
The actions may have been offensive, but a Willmar man argues he should not face prosecution for leaving a pig's foot at a Somali booth at a farmers market this past summer.
The attorney for Joseph Fernkes is challenging the constitutionality of the disorderly conduct charge filed against him, saying Fernkes was exercising his right to free speech. . . .
Fernkes, 61, received a disorderly conduct citation in the wake of the Aug. 12 incident at the Willmar Farmers Market located in the YMCA parking lot. He allegedly drove up in his wheelchair to a Somali-staffed vendor booth, placed a pickled pig's foot on the table and then drove away while directing an obscene gesture at the vendors.
Witnesses said in separate interviews that he also cursed and used anti-Muslim slurs. Some accounts maintain the pig's foot was thrown, not placed. The vendor booth sold vegetables raised by a Willmar gardening program for minority youths.
The citation issued against Fernkes is a misdemeanor. Willmar Police Department officers tracked him down at his home after talking to witnesses and reviewing photos taken at the scene.
The case quickly drew statewide attention. Within days, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for hate crime charges.
Fernkes appeared with his attorney in court Tuesday but did not speak. He did not use a wheelchair in the courtroom.
In a memorandum filed Tuesday, attorney John Mack acknowledged that his client meant to offend Muslims, whose religious beliefs forbid the consumption of pork. . . .
Bluestem's left wondering what will happen to the bucolic splendors of shopping at farmers markets should offending the merchants become a regular part of the experience--and rudeness about religion to enterprising teens become the new normal. Is insulting business people the new Minnesota Nice?
UPDATE 10/11/2017: On Facebook, our friend Max Hailperin observes:
The WCTrib article almost closes with a kicker by quoting him about [Somali refugees] "taking over the whole damn town." Too bad they continued to the bit in which he speculates about having the silent support of "so many people." Closing with the "taking over" quote would leave readers thinking about who is taking over from whom: peaceful vegetable-growing youths are "taking over the whole damn town" from crabby, pigs-foot-wielding old cusses. Hmm, doesn't sound like such a bad deal.
Photo: Squash religious bigotry. Photo from the Willmar Farmers Market Facebook page.
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