A St. Paul City Council member wants to put up a symbolic “Keep Out’’ sign aimed at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Last week, First Ward Council Member Dai Thao said he would offer a resolution at Wednesday’s council meeting that condemns Trump’s “anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant” comments. The proposed statement would also declare the candidate unwelcome in St. Paul. The first part of the resolution is spot-on — but part two goes too far. In taking a for-the-record stand, the council should stick to denouncing Trump’s remarks by citing St. Paul’s rich history of accepting immigrants and refugees.
Saying that the GOP presidential candidate is “not welcomed’’ in the city reminds this page of some of the protests that have erupted at U.S. universities — including the University of Minnesota — when administrators or students have said speakers with certain views should not be allowed to appear on campus. Free speech is a constitutional right — no matter how much that speech might be loathed by some.
During Trump’s headline-grabbing campaign, the New York business mogul has accused Mexican immigrants of being rapists and, more recently, said all Muslims should be banned from entering the U.S.
Polls show that the primary point of the proposed St. Paul resolution squares with how most Americans feel about Trump’s hateful comments. The Star Tribune Editorial Board also has denounced the proposed ban, saying it gives in to the fear terrorists work to instill.
In response to Trump’s anti-immigration views, leaders of other cities have sent the candidate the right message. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said Trump’s “message of hate” is divisive. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Trump “will go down as one of the worst demagogues in recent U.S. political history.”
Thao, an immigrant from Laos who became the first person of Hmong descent elected to the St. Paul City Council, also has a valuable message to give. “Bigotry, racist, divisive politics are just not tolerated here. … As leaders … we express our dismay at what he’s [Trump] doing,” Thao said.
That’s the right response — the kind the City Council can express in a strongly worded resolution. But the “stay away” clause is excessive, and it would damage the city’s reputation as Minnesota’s capital of democracy.