From its picturesque scenery, to its quaint shops and restaurants, downtown Stillwater is a Minnesota destination. Ted Kozlowski is the city’s mayor.
“You know, Stillwater to me has always been a safe haven where you can relax, you can let your shoulders down a little bit, where you can be safe,” Kozlowski said.
One family didn’t feel that way Saturday night. Sophia Rashid, a Muslim woman, wrote about her experience in a Facebook post that’s now been shared thousands of times.
Rashid was eating outside Leo’s Grill and Malt Shop when she says a motorcycle club, wearing vests reading “Aryan Cowboys,” walked by and tried to intimidate her.
“I’ve been in not-all-that-safe situations around racists/Islamophobes before, but this one was just different, and I knew it almost immediately,” Rashid said in the post.
The young staff at the malt shop escorted Rashid and her daughter to her car, passing more members of the motorcycle club, before they ducked into the Lora Hotel to wait for police.
“To surround this woman and make her feel safe, I mean it, that warms my heart,” Kozlowski said. “It’s awful to have an event like this happen in your backyard. You know, none of these people are from our community.”
(credit: Sophia Rashid/Facebook)
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood “is a small white supremacist prison/street gang based primarily in Minnesota and Kentucky.”
Stillwater Police are investigating the incident. In a press release, the police department said motorcycle clubs often visit the river town.
“Some motorcycle gangs wear insignia on their vests that is offensive to others,” the police statement said.
It goes on to say that the department is committed to ensuring everyone in town feels safe. Mayor Kozlowski said he’s also contacted the governor’s office.
“Right now my task is to figure out who’s watching these groups. What groups in particular are problematic,” Kozlowski said. “I think we all need a little bit more education on who these people are, what they represent, so we can separate the hateful Aryans from people that don’t represent that at all, because a lot of times they don’t look all that different from one another.”
WCCO reached out to Rashid but did not hear back. Mayor Kozlowski hopes to talk with her as well.
“I want to let her know she’s welcome in our town. I’d love to hear her experience firsthand,” Kozlowski said.
The mayor says patrols will increase in town through summer. He said this is the first time the police department can recall an incident like this one involving a motorcycle club.
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