A recent letter writer expressed his dismay over a proposed ban on police officers affiliating with white supremacist organizations ("Beware this seeming solution," Readers Write, May 13). The writer raised two concerns: that no one can agree on what constitutes a "white supremacist" group, and any ban "punishes" police officers for their beliefs. Courts in other states have upheld similar bans on police officers joining white supremacist groups, and those decisions provide guidance on why such bans are enforceable.
For example, in 2006, a Nebraska state trooper was fired from his job after he admitted to joining a Ku Klux Klan affiliate. His termination was upheld by the Nebraska Supreme Court, which offered this explanation why his termination was justified: "One cannot simultaneously wear the badge of the Nebraska State Patrol and the robe of a Klansman without degrading what that badge represents when worn by any officer." Banning membership in the KKK was easy. Other courts will determine what constitutes a "white supremacist" group on a case-by-case basis, with due consideration of the unique facts in each case.
And banning officers from joining white supremacist groups is not "punishment" for a very simple reason. All citizens, including police officers, have a constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of association. But there is no constitutional right to be a police officer. Officers who are unwilling to abide by a ban on joining white supremacist groups are still free to join those groups, but not while wearing a police officer's badge.
Terrance Newby, Roseville
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Regarding the debate over where police officers should be allowed to belong to hate groups: No, they should not. Period.
Those who commented about prohibiting police from belonging to said groups seemed to think belonging to such a group is only about thought control. It is not.
The thoughts of the KKK were carried out by their actions of lynching. The Nazis' thoughts about Jews were carried out in their actions of murdering over 6 million of them.
The Proud Boys marched in Charlottesville, Va., chanting, "Jews will not replace us!" This hate was carried out by a car being driven through a crowd of protesters killing Heather Heyer.
The words of former President Donald Trump incited a crowd at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. It was a hate-filled speech filled with falsities spoken to a crowd of militia groups, Proud Boys, 3 Percenters and Oath Keepers. Those words spoken by Trump led to the hateful actions of his followers who assaulted police, called Black Capitol Police officers racial slurs and went "hunting" for then-Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They acted on Trump's words. It was hate wrapped in the American flag.
I am going to paraphrase U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in describing his threshold for obscenity in describing my threshold for hate speech:
I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of speech I understand to be embraced by those involved in hate groups and espousing said beliefs through hate speech. Perhaps I will never succeed in doing so. But I know it when I hear it. I know it when I see it.
Sgt. Erika Christensen, Lake Elmo
The writer is a police officer.
Are we sure about this?
The big news: No more masks ("CDC says the vaccinated can go maskless in most cases," and "State's mask mandate ends," front page, May 14). What about the 10 million people in this country who have compromised immune systems for one reason or another and for whom the vaccine might offer little protection? Couldn't the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have just waited a little longer until more people were vaccinated and until the numbers were down as low as they were last March (around 21,000), when states declared a stay-at-home order? Our national caseload recently has been around 35,000 per day.
We made a tragic error last year and opened up too soon and suffered horrible results. We are placing the lives of millions of people at risk because of a simple mask. Remember how we had to quit smoking lest the secondhand smoke kill others? How many bars and restaurants lost revenue or even went out of business? Remember that?
This decision will turn out to be a tragic mistake. The protection from the vaccine may not last forever — nobody knows. History has shown that impatience is always followed by problems. The new mask rule will be no exception.
Tina Landeen, Edina
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"I have really mixed feelings about this," said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm regarding the end of the state mask mandate. "We are the fourth-highest state in the country for case growth."
It is my belief that many of us feel the same way as Commissioner Malcolm. Although I am fully vaccinated, I have many misgivings concerning not wearing a mask in indoor settings, particularly when only about 50% of eligible Minnesotans are fully vaccinated. Have we enough scientific evidence that fully vaccinated individuals are free from future COVID-19 infections? If I, a fully vaccinated person, wear a mask because of my concerns, will the assumption be made by others that I am not vaccinated?
Gov. Tim Walz should stick to his original plan and wait until 70% of Minnesotans are vaccinated.
William A. Johnson, Roseville
BDE MAKA SKA
An opportunity to relocate
One of the principle concerns identified in Bde Maka Ska/Lake Harriet Master Plan Community Advisory Committee that was adopted by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board just two years ago was to limit and reduce the congestion at the northeast corner of Bde Maka Ska by moving some of the activity away from that site and creating a new more comprehensive facility at the northwest corner of the lake. Even the casual user in this area is quite cognizant of the variety of traffic and uses concentrated here.
The concept plan for replacement of the pavilion does just the opposite. It increases formal seating by 50%, adds space for pop-up vendors and creates a new performance space — all adding more activity of a limited space at this site.
While the concept plan itself looks lovely and exciting, the plan is far more fitting for the area at the northwest corner of the lake, as the master plan envisions. Not only was that area identified because there is significantly more space there, but also because of its proximity to the new Southwest Light Rail station that is due to open in less than two years and because of the ample evening and weekend parking.
The loss of the refectory two years ago created an opportunity, as unfortunate as that fire was, to take a leap forward with the long-term vision for Bde Maka Ska, instead of making this congested area even more congested.
It seems to me (as a member of the Bde Maka Ska/Lake Harriet Citizen Advisory Committee) that this is the right opportunity to take steps in that direction by moving the sailing school and scaling back the rebuild to replace the refectory with improved facilities and restrooms, but not expanding the number of activities at that site.
Harvey Zuckman, Minneapolis
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