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Immigrant business center in Fargo hit by white nationalist vandalism; artwork ruined

The vandalism is the third time in as many months that the white supremacist messages have been found.

A woman shrouded in flowing, black cloth closes her eyes in anguish while touching a mural that has been vandalized with white nationalist graffiti.
Fowzia Adde, executive director of the Immigrant Development Center in Moorhead, an organization that owns the International Market Plaza on Main Avenue, pauses with heartache about white supremacist messages sprayed on artwork displayed outside the Market Plaza on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022.
C.S. Hagen / The Forum
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FARGO — For the third time since July, white nationalist vandalism touting a hate group known as Patriot Front has shown up in downtown Fargo, most recently targeting an immigrant business center.

The International Market Plaza, 1345 Main Ave., was vandalized about three days ago in two separate incidents. At first, the words "Patriot Front" were spray-painted on the building’s entrance windows and were quickly washed away.

The second incident occurred about two days ago with the vandalism sprayed across multiple artworks outside the building on the Main Avenue side.

“They actually destroyed paintings that we spent a lot of money on. A local artist group painted these, and they destroyed our wall,” said Fowzia Adde, executive director of Immigrant Development Center, the organization that owns the building.

A report of the vandalism was filed with the Fargo Police Department, Adde said.

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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.

Inside International Market Plaza, about 18 business owners, who are all immigrants, manage shops, restaurants and grocery stores, Adde said. Since the vandalism took place, she said, shop owners and customers are hesitant to come in.

“They’re scared now because of the graffiti. They think they may come back and blow something up,” Adde said.

Jihan Brifki, a shop owner inside the International Market Plaza, was heartbroken after discovering the vandalism. She has helped set up a GoFundMe hoping to procure up to $15,000 to help repair the vandalized artworks.

“I just feel like this is spreading hate," Brifki said. "Why would they target a business that is all immigrants who are trying to become self-sufficient? Why would they go and do this? I just feel so bad that this happened in our community.”

“I have one word to the people who did this: cowards,” said Faith Dixon-Shields, a local business owner and activist who came by to show her support. “And we will not tolerate hate in our community.

“This shows that we need tougher laws, and we’ve been screaming that for years," she said. "So, wake up, City Hall. Hey, governor, wake up. This is a sad day for our community, and we need to rally around those who are being taunted, haunted, just because of the color of their skin."

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney did not respond to a request for comment by Wednesday afternoon.

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In July, Patriot Front graffiti was discovered at the Red Raven Espresso Parlor , which is preparing to move 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 the pathway that runs underneath Interstate 94 at Ninth Street South.

On Monday, renters at the Woodrow Wilson Apartments near downtown Fargo found fliers from the group on their cars.

Groups like the Patriot Front typically have no public spokespeople, but Adde challenged the vandals to a discussion.

“Why are you hiding? Come out and meet with us. Why are you sending a message that nobody knows how to respond to? If you have something against our community, we can sit and talk, and we can clear your mind,” she said, adding that she is organizing a clean-up day to attempt to remove the graffiti.

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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