A group of citizens in Blaine wants a new City Council member to resign for allegedly making social media comments that were racist and in support of U.S. Capitol rioters.
The Blaine Coalition for Racial Equity is calling on Council Member Leslie Larson to quit after just two months on the job, and the group wants the city to take up a resolution in support of her resignation at its June 20 meeting.
"We need council members who are committed to respecting that we have minorities who live in our area," Ashton Ramsammy, a public policy analyst and one of the group's co-founders, said in an interview. "Council members need to be held accountable for their words, and City Council members need to be willing to work with all groups."
Larson won a special election in April to fill a vacant Ward 2 seat. Several attempts to reach her by phone and email were unsuccessful.
About a month before the special election, a Blaine resident compiled comments Larson allegedly made on social media and posted them to a Blaine Facebook page. The comments were deleted shortly afterward, but another resident preserved the messages before they disappeared.
Ramsammy learned of Larson's comments after the election when they surfaced on Twitter, leading to the formation of the Blaine Coalition for Racial Equity.
In 2021, a comment with Larson's name appeared on a KARE-11 Facebook page with a comment about the charges against former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright.
"Too bad she wasn't employed at the capital [sic] instead. Killing citizens is encouraged there and your work is called 'bravery' and 'courage,'" the comment said, in an apparent reference to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
In a Jan. 27, 2022, post to a different thread, Larson allegedly wrote, "Can we also all pretend to be black so we can all have a chance at becoming a Supreme Court Justice?"
Ramsammy also objected to language on Larson's campaign materials that said, "Keep Blaine suburban, not urban!" with the words "not urban" underlined in red.
"Larson's statement suggests that urban areas are undesirable because they are associated with people of color or low-income," Ramsammy said in a press release. "It reinforces negative stereotypes about urban areas and the people who live there."
About a quarter of Blaine residents are people of color, according to data compiled by Minnesota Compass.
Ramsammy said the coalition would be open to starting an effort to recall Larson, but the north metro suburb of more than 70,000 residents has no formal process to remove elected officials.
The group is urging the city's Charter Commission to implement a removal process for ethics violations in the next 60 days. City spokesman Ben Hayle said the commission started developing that process last year and is expected to bring forward a proposed charter amendment this year.
Council members sign a code of conduct agreement when they start their term, Hayle said. The comments in question were made before Larson was elected.
Blaine Coalition for Racial Equity members also want the city to form a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Commission to create standards for the city and host a DEI workshop for all council members.
"With the diversity of Blaine, it's important we have standards in place," Ramsammy said.
Larson's resignation isn't likely to become an agenda item immediately. In Blaine, council members bring topics of discussion to council workshop sessions. If a topic gains support there, city staff could add it to a future agenda, Hayle said.
Members of the community, however, can bring up topics or concerns during on open forum at each council meeting, Hayle added.
"We can ask the council to make a motion asking her to resign," Ramsammy said.