Safety concerns postpone St. Cloud hate crimes forum

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Residents of St. Cloud take part in the community pride and peace walk.
Residents of St. Cloud, Minn., take part in the community pride and peace walk in the city on Wednesday. A planned forum on hate crimes in St. Cloud was postponed due to safety concerns.
Kirsti Marohn | MPR News

Updated: 7:36 p.m. | Posted: 6:29 p.m.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights and the St. Cloud Area Regional Human Rights Commission postponed a forum to talk about hate crimes scheduled for Wednesday.

State Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said, "Hate is not a value in St. Cloud or in any part of our state." Lucero said she is "heartbroken by the attempts to silence discussion on hate crimes."

The forum was postponed due to safety concerns after a group called Freedom Speaks Coalition asked people to attend and protest.

The panel would have included Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Justin Lewandowski, policy and community organizer for OutFront Minnesota.

Marni Hockenberg, Minnesota director of the group, Freedom Speaks Coalition, said the group objected to participation in the forum by CAIR.

Rachel Wexelbaum, a volunteer with the St. Cloud human rights commission, said she understands St. Cloud police were worried about protecting public safety. But she said she’s concerned about the impact of canceling the forum.

"We have different people who come to St. Cloud and disrupt the good things that we do,” Wexelbaum said. “I feel like after this, they're going to come back again and do more types of things like this, so that we can't have educational events for the community that we need to have."

Organizers pledged to reschedule the forum at a later date.