Swastika video does not define us as a community
“What is going on at my hometown?”
That question was asked by former Marshall resident Bo Erickson, who works as a reporter with CBS News.
Erickson and CBS News joined media outlets across the nation to report on the now famous viral video of a couple wearing face masks with the Nazi swastika while shopping at Walmart in Marshall.
The roughly two-minute video was taken and posted on social media on Saturday by local church vicur, Raphaela Mueller. Originally from Germany, Mueller said seeing the couple wearing the swastika masks left her “speechless” and felt like a “smack in the face.”
Meanwhile, the couple’s motivation is not totally clear. But it definitely involves the political turmoil our nation now suffers from.
During his filming, Mueller’s partner, Benjamin Ruesch yelled out to the couple: “You’re sick! You’re sick. You can’t be American and wear that mask … we literally had a war about this.”
The woman wearing the mask shouted back, “You’re not getting it, I’m not a Nazi.”
She was then asked why she was wearing the mask.
“Because I’m trying to tell you if you vote for Biden this is what you are gong to have, socialism.”
Marshall Police were called to the scene and reported that Walmart has banned the couple from the store for a year. Marshall police also reported that the man wearing the Nazi mask was punched in the face by somebody while at the store, but no charges were pressed.
Marshall Police Captain Jeff Wenker tried to distance the city of Marshall from the couple’s actions. He said the city of Marshall did not support or condone any statements or opinions expressed by the couple wearing the swastika masks.
Unfortunately, the damage had already been done. In a matter of hours, the video went viral, linking Marshall, Minnesota with the Swastika couple. It sparked outrage across the nation.
Closer to home, Gov. Tim Walz called it “disgraceful, plain and simple.”
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who is Jewish, also condemned the video.
“My extended family was slaughtered during the Holocaust. To me, Nazism isn’t a distant concept confined to history textbooks,” Frey said. “These actions aren’t just misguided — they’re a galling reminder of the work we have to do to stamp out hate and unite around a shared path forward.”
So again, what is going on in Erickson’s hometown?
There are different opinions, depending on who you talk to. On this same page, under Public Forum, Lyon County DFL Chairperson Anita Gaul argues the Walmart disturbance is not an isolated incident. She listed “hateful acts” that she has witnessed.
House District 16A candidate Doria Drost’s letter on this page charges there is racism in Marshall. She mentioned the vandalism at the George Floyd Memorial on College Drive over the weekend. But she also said Southwest Minnesota has “good people.”
We agree with that assessment. One only has to look at the Monday’s Independent front page. Under the coverage of the Walmart video, a story and photos of the Toys 4 Tots Fun Run also held Saturday is a clear example of “good people” coming together to help others.
But we do have harmful actions festering within our community. But our community is not much different from other communities throughout the nation struggling with the political division that has poisoned our nation.
In the many months leading up to the Walmart episode, Marshall City officials and residents have worked hard to promote the community as a great place to live and work.
On Monday, after fielding interview requests by several media outlets, Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes told the Independent more work needs to be done. He said the mask incident highlights the need to balance the community’s values and goals — like respecting different viewpoints, but also including and welcoming people.
That task will not be easy. But we should not let one video define who we are as a community.