ST. CLOUD, Minn. (WCCO) — Accusations of racism are dividing one Minnesota community.

A group protested in St. Cloud Saturday after a speaker allegedly talked about the effects of Somali immigrants moving to the city.

The local VFW post was scheduled to host a meeting earlier this week, but cancelled it last minute amid protest that the scheduled speaker was anti-refugee. Still, an unofficial meeting went on anyway. Protesters say one speaker talked about the negative effects of Somalis in the community.

“You were born a citizen, my children were born citizens, but I don’t teach my children to hate other human beings,” Lul Hersi, from St. Cloud, said. “That is a nasty thing.”

Signs read “Love, Peace, Unity” as protestors chanted “We are united.”

“It’s fear mongering and people are trying to cause division in our community,” protester and East Central Area Labor Council representative Jane Conrad said.

Protesters say Bob Enos, from Willmar, warned about the negative financial impact of Somali refugees moving to the U.S. He’s seen in a YouTube video at a Kandiyohi County Commission meeting earlier this year where he talked about Americans being taxed to fund Refugee Resettlement programs. In the video, he also addresses safety concerns.

“There is no infrastructure in order for our government to vet those people coming over seas,” Enos says in the video.

The protest in St. Cloud was interrupted several times, as veterans and other members of the community shouted that the thoughts weren’t racist.

“Don’t take every free program that there is here and don’t draw our social security so that the people that put into it can’t draw it,” one veteran said.

Police stepped in to make sure the protest was peaceful. The protestors say they support veterans but not community divide.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services says there are approximately 36,000 Somalis in Minnesota. That’s the largest settlement of Somalis in the country.

Kate Raddatz

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