Many in the Stillwater community are responding to an alleged incident of harassment in downtown Stillwater Saturday June 27. Police are investigating the claims of a Muslim woman who stated that she felt threatened by a group of white men who were wearing clothing with images from a white supremacist motorcycle group.
In response to the incident, the Stillwater Human Rights Commission and the city council released a statement: “One of the purposes of the Stillwater Human Rights Commission is to recognize and prevent discrimination and inequities in the daily life of the community. With the recent events, the Commission wishes to reassure its fellow citizens that it rejects and condemns racial intolerance and injustice. The Commission applauds individuals who constructively live out and act on principles of equality and who assist marginalized communities with donations, food and service. The Humans Rights Commission is dedicated to achieving a community led by harmony, dignity, equity and respect for all.”
According to the police report of the June 27 incident, police were called to a harassment complaint in the downtown area in which someone was being followed and yelled at. A officer met with the woman, Sophia Rashid of Minneapolis, around 9 p.m. June 27 with her four-year-old daughter as well as a waitress from Leo’s Grill and Malt Shop in downtown Stillwater who had walked with Rashid to the Lora Hotel on the south end of downtown. The group stopped at the hotel on their way to Rashid’s parked car near Teddy Bear Park.
Rashid stated to police that she was eating at an outside area of Leo’s Restaurant when she noticed a male wearing a leather vest displaying patches on the vest along with several other males wearing the same vests. Rashid stated that she first noticed the word “Aryan” on the patches of these vests that the males were wearing.
Rashid told police that when she noticed them, they also noticed her as at the time of this incident Rashid is wearing a traditional Muslim headcovering known as a hijab in which only her eyes are visible. According to the police report, the men began pointing toward Rashid and stating things similar to, “We’ve got our eye on you” and “We’re watching you.” At this same time, Rashid began to take pictures of these males with her cell phone.
At that point Rashid, along with several of the Leo’s Restaurant waitresses, left Leo’s Restaurant and began to walk with Rashid toward her vehicle, which was parked in the Teddy Bear Park lot. While the group was were walking south on Main St S, Rashid told police that there were several groups of patched outlaw motorcycle gang (OMG) members walking past her including “Aryan Cowboys” and “Hell’s Angels.”
Rashid continued to take pictures as she was walking past the OMG members, and told police that she felt like the men walked by her in a coordinated effort to intimidate her. Rashid also stated that a different group crossed the street from the west side of Main St. S. to the east side which is where Rashid was walking in what she felt like was another attempt to intimidate her; however this specific group that crossed the street did not say anything to Rashid, but one of the males starred very consistently at Rashid.
According to the police report, as Rashid was walking on Main St. S. she was taking several pictures and as Rashid passed another OMG member and what appeared to be the member’s girlfriend, Rashid took a picture of her, in which she responded to Rashid, “You got a problem?” Rashid told police that at that point she walked into the Lora Hotel and waited for police to arrive.
In the report, the police officer stated that he arrived and recorded the report and offered to transport Rashid to her vehicle, which Rashid accepted. All of the photos Rashid took during the incident were given to the officer and were attached to this report. There was no known video of the incident.
In addition to the incident report, a Stillwater officer obtained intelligence from the employees at Ziggy’s Bar that the likely reason the OMGs were in town is because a former OMG nicknamed “Taz” was released from prison the night before and the OMGs believed that Taz may come to Stillwater. The OMGs were planning on starting a confrontation with “Taz” due to some type of violation of the OMGs rules.
“Taz” became aware of the OMGs presence and did not come to the Stillwater area.
The report by the police officer concluded that while the behavior displayed by the OMG members was concerning to Rashid and a report to document this incident was necessary and valuable due to the information and photos Rashid provided to law enforcement; there was no evidence of a specific or direct threat being made by any of the OMG members toward Rashid. Due to this finding, it was determined by the officer to immediate attempt to directly pursue the OMG members at the time of this incident; however the report was forwarded to the investigative unit for any additional investigation and follow up that may be necessary.
Community members are holding a protest and walk this weekend in response to the incident. The event is being run by EastMetro Unites Against Racism and is also being promoted by the group Stillwater for Racial Justice.
The event will be held 10 a.m. Saturday, July 4 in Lowell Park by the Historic Lift Bridge. Accoridng to the event listing, the group will be “discussing plans to move forward as a community and how to show hate groups that they are not welcome in th city.” Participants are encouraged to bring water, a face mask and to socially distance themselves from others.
Contact Alicia Lebens at email@example.com