UNDERWOOD, Minn. — Particularly vile, racist Facebook posts that appeared under the account of a prominent businessman have roiled this small town in Otter Tail County and caused the local school district to sever ties with him.
Another prominent local entrepreneur, who has two biracial daughters enrolled in the elementary school, has vowed to shine a light on the comments and the businessman in the name of social justice.
"I won't be quiet on this," Lesley Barry said. "We have a duty to speak out on these things and not just let them go. When somebody uses those kinds of words, we have to say something."
The comments were posted Saturday, May 30, under the account of Bruce Huseth, who owns the Underwood Quik-Stop & Cafe on Highway 210.
With the Twin Cities still roiling with protests and rioting in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes, several posts appeared on Huseth's account.
The first began with a plea for the president to "come and help us in Minnesota" and went on to use a racial slur against black people while describing Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.
Later, another post began: "It's 8 o'clock governer Walls has no BALLS ..." and included another slur. That post ended with "... way to go you weak democratics."
A third post read: "I pray tonight that the National Guard is issued real cartridges and pile them up. They can bring in the refrigeratored trailers from New York to pile the body's in. This is America not an third world county. This is (expletive) DISGUSTING to see so close to home....."
Huseth's gas station, convenience store and cafe is a popular stop in the town 10 miles east of Fergus Falls, described as a "community hub" by Barry.
Huseth is a community leader in Underwood, which has a population of about 350. His businesses donate time, equipment and money for local causes. He was the high school's volunteer trapshooting coach and was once the fire department's chief.
The posts drew immediate online condemnation and were eventually deleted, but not before screenshots circulated on Facebook.
Somebody alerted the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office to the posts, and an officer visited with Huseth.
"The posts had been removed prior to contact from our office. No crime was committed, so no further action was taken," Sheriff Barry Fitzgibbons said.
An apology later appeared under Huseth's account, asking for forgiveness and blaming the racist posts on alcohol.
"I was intoxicated and very upset as I watched the news coverage about the riots and looting going on in the twin cities and frustrated on how the government officials were not able to control the situation," the post said. "In the morning I received a text from a friend about my comments. I did not even remember most of it or did I realized the words I used."
Huseth also wrote: "Please accept my apology and forgive me, I am not a racist."
Reached via phone at his office Wednesday, Huseth was evasive when asked directly about the posts.
"I can't recall that right now," he said when asked generally about making the posts. "We're trying to figure out what's going on."
Huseth indicated his account might've been hacked, but was again evasive when asked if he wrote the apology post. He said he couldn't say what posts he wrote.
When asked specifically whether he wrote the posts that contained racial slurs and piling bodies in refrigerated trailers, Huseth said, "I can't comment on them at this time" and hung up.
Underwood School District superintendent Dave Kuehn said in an email that the district's business relationships with Huseth have been canceled.
Kuehn said the only contractual relationship was a small contract to provide snow removal services, which Huseth voluntarily dropped when contacted by the district about the posts.
Kuehn said the district had other informal business relationships with him, such as purchase of fuel for district vehicles and purchase of food for district events, and those informal business relationships have also been severed.
"The School District was made aware yesterday of these very inappropriate, racist social media posts by a local business owner. The School District does not in any way support, condone or agree with the content of those posts. ... After the District was made aware of these posts, the District no longer has any contractual or business relationships with this individual or his businesses," Kuehn wrote.
Barry has been relentless on Facebook since she learned of the posts over the weekend. She's the owner of Good Life Inc., a home health care company that primarily works with individuals with developmental disabilities. She wrote that Underwood shouldn't "sweep this under the rug."
"When you see him in public, when he walks through your line at the store, at the bank, in your restaurant let him know that you recognize him. Feel free to refuse service to him if you are as enraged as I am. And perhaps simply ask him why. Why does he harbor so much hatred for people of another race? Why did he write those words and have those thoughts? Ask him if he thinks there’s a better way to live and if he’d possibly be willing to embrace love and light instead of hatred and fear," Barry wrote.
In a phone interview, Barry said she took Huseth's posts personally since her daughters are biracial and because she works with developmentally disabled people.
"It's got to end and you have to start calling this out," Barry said. "If somebody you know uses these words, somebody in your family, somebody at a business, say something. Tell them to stop using these words. There's no reason to remain silent."