Full house for forum on white nationalism in St. Cloud, Minnesota

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison brought his listening tour to St. Cloud as part of his plan to combat hate crimes in the state. Tuesday night, Ellison welcomed a packed house, with visitors weighing in on the topic of white nationalism.

The Attorney General said all residents have to be vigilant no matter where they are because hate movements can grow anywhere, especially during times of uncertainty.

“We want to be in conversation and dialogue with you because we are concerned about hate crimes,” he said. “If you all - and I mean all of Minnesota - don’t reach out to each other and build some bridges, it’s not gonna work.”

Ellison is holding listening sessions across the state and addressing concerns before they grow.

“I’m a member of the LGBTQ community, and I’ve experienced violence based on hate here in St Cloud,” one attendee said.

“We are here because of the fact that every inch of this state should be a place where we promote tolerance,” another person said.

The focus Tuesday night was on white nationalism, and someone who knows that movement well is Christian Picciolini, a former white supremacist.

“Racism wasn’t part of my DNA. I wasn’t raised to hate,” he said.

Picciolini was involved in the skinhead neo-Nazi movement in Chicago. 

“I was in the movement eight years, and I’m still astonished by what I see today,” he said.

He left that life 23 years ago and shares his story around the world, warning people that the movement is still strong.

“We are not living in a post racial society, but what I’ve seen over the last few years is really a tremendous surge in this isolating and hateful sentiment,” he said.

Picciolini’s advice to people here is to make connections and be vocal and vigilant to keep hate out. 

“Show compassion to those who least deserve it because often times those are the ones who can really benefit the most,” he said.