The Aberdeen American News gives a little more coverage of the fear-stoking anti-refugee program held in Aberdeen Thursday by itinerant Californian Ron Branstner and the as-yet anonymous “Americans First, Task Force.” Strangely, reporter Katherine Grandstrand asks Branstner for his reaction to his audience’s near-violent response to the comments he permitted me to make at the meeting, but she does not ask me for my perspective.
Here’s my perspective, just slightly edited from a press release I submitted to the Aberdeen American News and other local new outlets yesterday morning.
I attended a presentation by Ron Branstner at the Ramkota Thursday. In his presentation warning Aberdeen not to accept refugees, the California man made several outrageous statements:
- Branstner called for the ouster of Aberdeen Mayor Mike Levsen and Aberdeen economic development chief Mike Bockorny.
- Branstner called Bockorny’s efforts to fill Aberdeen workforce needs by targeting immigrants “racist.”
- Branstner claimed that “naive and very Christianlike” communities that don’t fight refugee resettlement efforts are “consumed” and completely taken over by foreigners.
- Branstner accused Lutheran Social Services of not caring about refugees.
- Branstner accused Lutheran Social Services of exploiting immigrants to make money.
- Branstner accused Lutheran Social Services of being part of a United Nations-run conspiracy.
- Branstner used the offensive term “anchor baby” to describe children born in the United States.
- Branstner sowed fear of disease to discourage parents from letting their children play with refugee children.
- Branstner implied that the Aberdeen New Americans Task Force is somehow connected with and carrying out the agenda of a White House New Americans Task Force.
I am disappointed that an outsider would come to our community and insult our leaders, our friends and neighbors who are working to help fellow human beings in dire straits and make Aberdeen a better community for all of our residents. Racist insults and conspiracy theories won’t help Aberdeen prosper. Aberdeen’s cultural and economic health depends on our continuing to welcome all people who are willing to move here, work hard, and be a part of our community.
Mayor Levsen, Mr. Bockorny, Lutheran Social Services, and the local New Americans Task Force understand that immigration makes Aberdeen and America stronger. As a nation of immigrants, we have a patriotic duty to support the American ideals of liberty, justice, and opportunity for all.
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Grandstrand does at least get quotes from a couple of other Aberdonians who note the ugliness of Branstner’s event and the Aberdonians who rage with him:
Sheila Richards, retired pastor at North Highland United Methodist Church and a member of the New Americans Task Force, wondered if as many people would sit for as long at a presentation given by that group.
“My great sorrow — one of them, well, there’s several — but one is to see people there that I have known for 50 years that I had no idea were so consumed with anger,” Richards said [Katherine Grandstrand, “Speaker Surprised by Tensions at Immigration Meeting,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.08.12].
Presentation College Arts and Sciences chair Dr. Naomi Ludeman Smith tries to be generous to Branstner, saying he is “passionate” about his topic, but he fails the academic rigor test:
“Mr. Branstner has some conclusions that are questionable. His reasoning was circular, dichotomous and sweeping generalizations,” Ludeman Smith said [Grandstrand, 2016.08.12].
Unfortunately, we have not heard the last from Branstner. Thursday night he told the crowd he is planning to return at the end of September or beginning of October and hopes to bring Usama Dakdok to town. Attentive readers will remember Dakdok as the virulent anti-Islam shouter who spoke in Winner this spring. As I wrote on May 29, Dakdok says that Mohammed was a sex offender; that Islam is a disease; that Allah is Satan; that every true Muslim is a barbaric, savage terrorist; and that anyone who says otherwise is a politically correct, ignorant dupe of the liberal media. Unfortunately, those messages will resonate with many of the people who attended .