A west-central Minnesota pastor has unleashed a flurry of praise and condemnation after a posting a Facebook video telling citizens to be ready to "arm up" and saying that he expects President Donald Trump to enact martial law.
After reading from scripture, Darryl Knappen, pastor at Cornerstone Church in Alexandria, tells Facebook viewers to buckle up their "emotional seat belts … We're in for a very bumpy ride in the next 10 days," he says at the end of the 13-minute video, posted just days after thousands of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol last week, hoping to stop the certification of Joe Biden as the next U.S. president.
The video, which has spread far beyond the town of nearly 14,000 residents 140 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, has racked up more than a 1,000 comments since Knappen posted it on Jan. 9. Some applaud him for "honesty" and "courage."
"Thank you for inspiring me," said one post.
"God bless you pastor," said another. "This is absolutely awesome to hear."
Others, however, castigate him, calling him delusional, a disgrace and despicable.
"As an Alexandria resident, I am disgusted by your attempt to incited [sic] fear and violence in my community. You are the problem. Shame on you," said one post.
Kali Lentz of Maplewood, who returns often to her hometown of Alexandria to visit family and friends, said she's "really sad to see what's going on there right now. I was shocked by the video. I've always known Alexandria to be a conservative area but I never thought there were people up there who would want to start militias, especially a pastor of all things. The only thing to come out of this will be violence."
Shawn Olson, who lives in Alexandria, believes Knappen's views represent only a small segment of the Douglas County community. He added that most people he knows were shocked by the video.
"[Knappen's] rhetoric is inflammatory and dangerous, as it can push even more unstable and heavily armed people right over the edge, leading to more insurgent capitol stormings or even domestic terrorism," Olson said.
Knappen recorded the video in his church. He speaks calmly as he tells viewers that's he's speaking out because he considers it a spiritual matter.
"If I was back in colonial times, my heart would be thoroughly attached to be a member of the black robe regiment — pastors who led the way in colonial times … to shake off the totalitarian regime of England."
Knappen tells listeners he was tempted to make the video while wearing his black robe and opening it to show his AR-15 rifle.
"But I thought it would be way too graphic for all of you or for Facebook to allow," he said. "I would have been part of the movement back then and I may be part of that movement today."
Knappen, recounting unsubstantiated claims of election fraud and a "deep state," said he expects Trump to enact martial law and/or the Insurrection Act. But if Trump doesn't, he will be violating his oath of office to protect the U.S. Constitution, he said. "I'm deadly serious," he said.
There is a need, he said, for patriots to be ready "to arm up" and be part of a citizen militia to back up police and sheriffs to "protect our freedoms."
Repeated calls to Knappen on Wednesday were not immediately returned.
Alexandria Police Chief Scott Kent said the community doesn't need armed citizen support. Law enforcement, and the National Guard if needed, are sufficient.
Earlier this week, Knappen told the local Echo Press newspaper that he would be disappointed if Trump doesn't call for martial law, but that he would recover.
"I will ask the Lord to give me grace, which he's done before, and he gave me grace under President Barack Obama to be a good citizen, and God will give me grace to do it again," the paper reported him saying.
Knappen has criticized Gov. Tim Walz's COVID-19 restrictions that mandate social distancing, face masks and capacity limits in places of worship, saying it violates the First Amendment right to religious freedom. He also supports recalling Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is charged with enforcing those mandates.
Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788