In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was a television show on the Fargo local access cable television station called “The White Power Hour.” It was hosted by Michael Hansen, a neo-Nazi who lived in Fargo.
On the show, Hansen routinely preached hatred against African Americans and Jewish people, while praising Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. He also displayed crude and repulsive posters of black and Jewish people. It was ugly, but the local cable company had to legally broadcast the show.
Hansen’s endorsement of hatred and bigotry didn’t end when the show was over. He frequently put flyers that were disgustingly racist and anti-Semitic on the windshields of cars parked in Fargo. One day, he put those flyers on cars parked in the student lot at Fargo South High School. The students were rightfully outraged by this. To their credit, many students from Fargo South held a rally to speak out against this hatred and intolerance. I covered that rally for WDAY-TV, as did reporters from other Fargo news outlets.
One by one, students stood up to speak out against hatred and bigotry, and for equality. The students were passionate and articulate. It was an impressive event. After the rally was over, I noticed the students were not walking back to the school. I asked them where they were going, and they told me they were heading to Hansen’s apartment. With that, I told Mike Sweeney, my excellent news photographer, to look like we were driving back to WDAY, and then when the other reporters were out of sight, to circle back and follow the students.
When the students arrived at Hansen’s apartment, he was waiting for them. He stood on his outside balcony and waved his big Nazi flag. One student climbed up, tried to take away the flag, and got into a fight with Hansen. Other students threw various objects at the apartment and shattered windows. Three students were arrested.
Because of this violent incident, the students ended up accomplishing nothing. They had the righteous issues on their side, and they blew it. They turned a devout racist into a victim.
I bring this up because protesters have the issues on their side again. It’s outrageous that George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer. The same holds true for many other recent black murder victims, such as Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile and Breonna Taylor. From slavery to Jim Crow to lynchings to now, this deadly racism and injustice must stop.
Another issue that protesters have on their side is the appalling behavior of racist authoritarian President Donald Trump. His call for violence against demonstrators is alarming. His having police officers fire tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful protesters so he could have a photo op outside a church is frightening.
A historic and inspiring movement is now taking place. Real positive change can happen. We need to keep our eye on the prize, and let nothing interfere with that.
Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director. Email firstname.lastname@example.org