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Volunteers help remove vandalized murals outside immigrant business center in Fargo

On Sept. 4, the International Market Plaza at 1345 Main Ave, which is home to about 17 immigrant-owned businesses, was hit by stenciled spray paint onto murals outside the building.

Volunteers working to take down the vandalized murals at International Market Plaza on SepSt. 18, 2022.jpg
Volunteers remove the vandalized murals at Fargo's International Market Plaza on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.
By C.S. Hagen/The Forum
We are part of The Trust Project.

FARGO — Dozens of volunteers arrived Sunday, Sept. 18, at an immigrant business center here to remove hate speech earlier spray painted onto murals outside the building.

For the third time since July, the vandalism touting a white nationalist group known as “Patriot Front” has appeared around Fargo. On Sept. 4, the International Market Plaza at 1345 Main Ave, which is home to about 17 immigrant-owned businesses, was hit by stenciled spray paint onto murals outside the building.

Volunteers who showed up Sunday began by taking down the damaged murals, heavy work for a warm late summer afternoon. Other volunteers swept the narrow sidewalk along Main Avenue and pulled weeds from the cracks.

Once the murals came down, volunteers began painting the Main Avenue side of the International Market Plaza.

The Patriot Front is a white nationalist hate group that formed after the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights nonprofit that tracks hate groups.

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One of the damaged murals that was taken down at International Market Plaza on Main Avenue on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.jpg
One of the damaged murals before it was taken down at International Market Plaza on Main Avenue on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.
By C.S. Hagen/The Forum

The Fargo Police Department reported that the investigation into the acts of vandalism is ongoing.

Since the vandalism at the International Market Plaza occurred, however, artists that originally painted the murals have pledged to repair the paintings, said Fowzia Adde, executive director of Immigrant Development Center, the organization that owns the building.

“I see every community here. I see the Latina community. I see African American. I see everyone,” said Adde.

“This means we are going in the right direction. This means we are going after those guys. This means our community will overcome this wickedness, and it means that nothing like this will happen again,” Adde said.

Fargo Police Officer Vincent Kempf, who is also the cultural liaison officer, standing by while volunteers help with clean up at International Market Plaza on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.jpg
Fargo Police Officer Vincent Kempf, who is also the cultural liaison officer, on duty while volunteers help with clean up at International Market Plaza on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.
By C.S. Hagen/The Forum

Calling the vandalism a “senseless evil,” Barry Nelson, a member of the Fargo Human Rights Commission, said the scene on Sunday afternoon was a picture of the community coming together.

“There is nothing more debilitating than to see senseless hate-filled acts in the community, but this is taking something horrible and turning it into something beautiful,” Nelson said.

Abdiwalli Sharif, owner of the Moonlight Grocery and Cafe on Main Avenue, provided the volunteers with food of rice, chicken legs, salad, samosas and more.

“We are a community and we need to support each other. We need to be there for each other,” Sharif said.

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Andy Maus, director of Plains Art Museum, said a plan is in the works to restore the damaged murals.

“Some of these works were made at the Plains Art Museum. I would be here anyway, but my son also contributed to one of the paintings. The community won’t stand for this,” Maus said.

By late Sunday afternoon, a GoFundMe account aiming to help equip the building with outdoor surveillance cameras had so far raised $3,735 out of a $15,000 goal.

Fowzia Adde and Terry Hogan, director of equity diversity and inclusion for the City of Fargo, discussing the clean up effort on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.jpg
Fowzia Adde and Terry Hogan, director of equity, diversity and inclusion for the City of Fargo, discuss the clean-up effort on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.
By C.S. Hagen/The Forum

In July, Patriot Front graffiti was discovered at the Red Raven Espresso Parlor , which is moving to a new location, and similar stickers were also found throughout downtown.

In August, red, white and blue stenciled signs for Patriot Front popped up in pedestrian pathway that runs underneath Interstate 94 at Ninth Street South.

In early September, renters at the Woodrow Wilson Apartments near downtown Fargo found fliers from the group on their cars.

Related Topics: RACISM
C.S. Hagen is an award-winning journalist currently covering the education and activist beats mainly in North Dakota and Minnesota.
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