Donald Trump may be welcome in the city of St. Paul, but the City Council voted Wednesday to condemn his “anti-Muslim, anti-refugee and anti-immigrant speech” in a move that had the American Civil Liberties Union defending the Republican presidential candidate’s right to speak.
Council Member Dai Thao, who sponsored the resolution, and his colleagues acknowledged that they could not ban Trump, even if they don’t like what he has to say.
Council Member Dan Bostrom was the lone member to vote against the resolution in the 6-1 vote. While he may not like what Trump says, Bostrom said, he would not try to limit his right to say it.
Thao, who was supported by several people in the chambers holding placards reading “Trump the Hate,” said that since proposing the original resolution saying that Trump was not welcome in St. Paul — language that was taken out of the resolution that passed — he had received e-mails calling him racist epithets and telling him to go back to where he came from. Some have said Thao’s resolution is un-American, he said.
Saying the First Amendment to the Constitution is for “Americans to shape our destiny,” Thao said his resolution was not meant to limit Trump’s rights but to “stand up to hate speech. This is not the St. Paul we want to live in.”
He called on his colleagues to not tolerate what he called Trump’s bigotry.
Council Member Dave Thune said he admires Thao’s action condemning Trump’s message, saying “it’s a crime to not stand up and call him on it.” He added that he was proud of Thao for bringing the resolution forward.
But Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, said it was a mistake.
“My advice to the City Council is they should have their speeches and then table it until 2017,” he said. “What this is doing is not a role the City Council should have.”
Trump is a private citizen, Samuelson said. If he chose to come to St. Paul, stand in the center of Rice Park and yell at the top of his lungs to ban Muslims, “what would happen to him? Nothing.”
The resolution “is not an appropriate response for a city council. Their response borders on the unconstitutional,” he said. “The only thing that saves them is that they didn’t make a law and, when he shows up, they didn’t tell him he was unwelcome.”
Others had a similar response, writing e-mails to the City Council in the days since Thao first proposed the resolution saying that Trump was unwelcome in St. Paul. While Thao subsequently amended his resolution to remove that language, the e-mail writers made their feelings clear.
Mark Paske wrote: “I understand that the St. Paul City Council will actually be voting on a resolution that would declare Donald Trump officially ‘unwelcome’ within the City of St. Paul. Whether or not this is an appropriate use of the council’s time is not my concern. I find Donald Trump to be a complete buffoon with revolting opinions and a complete disgrace to the Republican Party. That said, I find the idea of the government, at any level, officially declaring certain people or groups ‘unwelcome’ based on their opinions to be beyond chilling.”
Patti Schwanz wrote: “Dai Thao as an individual can say whatever he wants about Donald Trump or immigration policy. So can any member of the council. Just as Donald Trump can say whatever he wants. Here’s the thing — Trump holds no elected office. You do. It would be repulsive of you as the St. Paul City Council, a government entity, to condemn an individual’s speech, or declare that individual ‘not welcome’ in our city. If our government starts down this road, where does it end? How long until you’re the one that says something that makes you the unwelcome one?”
Messages left with Thao seeking comment Wednesday were not immediately returned.