The message was clear at the #stcloudUNITED rally Sept. 20 at St. Cloud State: We are one community.
The event emcee Mohamed Warsame, president of the Somali Student Association, opened with a celebratory note for the Atwood Porch crowd: “This is an example of what a strong community looks like.”
An estimated 300 gathered to proclaim solidarity in the wake of the Sept. 18 knife attacks that injured 10 at Crossroads Center Mall in west St. Cloud.
Concern for the injured people was central, notably in the remarks of Ashish Vaidya, interim president: “We are united in our passion, and compassion, for the victims and others at the Saturday event.”
The attacker — shot and killed by off-duty Avon police officer Jason Falconer ’95 — was of Somali descent. To-date, the attacker’s motives are unknown. Community leaders have raised concerns that Somalis, in particular, and Muslims, in general, will be blamed for the attacks.
There were notes of defiance. “We cannot and we will not stand for ignorance,” said Mica Saucedo, president of Residence Hall Association. “We cannot and we will not stand for hate.”
Said St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis ’89: “Remember, we write our story, not others.”
Kleis, who wore a sport coat purchased Tuesday at Crossroads Center, asked the crowd to return to the mall with their shopping dollars. “Do what you do every day. The fact that you do something normal — that builds, and continues to build — community.”
Some shared advice. “Don’t ever isolate yourself to the point where everyone around you is just like you,” said William Blair Anderson, St. Cloud Police chief.
There was pride. “I am so proud of these student leaders behind me right now,” said Vaidya. “St. Cloud, Minnesota, United States and the world — these are your future leaders. There are your future leaders. I’m just beaming with pride right now.” Read Vaidya’s statement on the Sept. 18 attacks.
Sam Conway added notes of change, arguing for an end to the view that the Somali community and the St. Cloud community are separate entities.
“He (Dahir Adan, the attacker) was raised by this community, my community, a community that we need to take responsibility for,” said Conway, of the Graduate Student Clinical Counseling Association. “We believe this type of responsibility, this type of truth-telling, this type of honesty, is the only thing that gets us to freedom, that gets us to change and allows us to live together in peace.”
The rally was followed by a campus march and discussions in Atwood Memorial Center. The evening’s activities were St. Cloud State’s Our Husky Compact writ large. During the 2016-17 academic year, students and employees are focusing on a pledge to “Engage as a Member of a Diverse and Multicultural World.”