St. Cloud City Councilmember Paul Brandmire said that COVID-positive individuals should be marked with a yellow star on their lapel at that city’s meeting on Monday.
“If we can mandate masks, then certainly we can mandate that COVID positive people wear some sort of identification badge, maybe like a bright yellow star or something pinned to their lapel,” he said.
The comment came during a lengthy discussion of a proposed mask ordinance, which the council passed 5-2. Brandmire was one of the two no votes.
Brandmire said that he was not making a reference to the Holocaust.
“You’re blowing this way out of proportion. It’s absurd; there was no reference to Jews,” Brandmire told TC Jewfolk Tuesday afternoon. The point he said he was making was about “governmental overreach, mandates, and forcing citizens to comply with governmental directives that they disagree with.
“I’m not anti-Semitic,” he continued. “I’ve been to Israel. I’ve been to Jerusalem. I’ve prayed at the Wailing Wall.”
The Facebook post from #unitecloud Executive Director Natalie Ringsmuth has more than 130 comments. Throughout Tuesday afternoon, Brandmire has been responding to angry Facebook comments on the page of #unitecloud, an organization that “provides education and actionable steps to resolve tension and restore dignity to all people in Central MN,” according to the website. He maintained that he didn’t “use a bad reference nor any reference to race or culture.”
Ringsmuth said that this is hardly the first run-in with Brandmire when it comes to divisive language.
“This is one of many things,” Ringsmuth said. “What we’re looking for is a leader with more humility and consistently welcoming language. He doesn’t see that it’s anti-Semitic. As a Christian, I don’t get to decide what’s anti-Semitic. He deeply hurt our Jewish brothers and sisters by flippantly referring to the not-so-distant past of the Holocaust.”
Rinsmuth said #unitecloud is talking about a community response to Brandmire.
This isn’t the first time since the COVID-19 Pandemic that Holocaust references have been made in Minnesota. At the April 17 protest outside the Governor’s Mansion, a sign that compared Gov. Tim Walz to Adolph Hitler was on display, and there have been many social media posts that compared executive orders from Walz to the Gestapo. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas condemned that imagery at the time.
“Contemporary comparisons to Nazis, coming from anywhere on the political spectrum, are almost always historically inaccurate, insult the memory of the Holocaust’s victims and survivors, and are deeply hurtful to most Jews and others whose communities were victimized,” JCRC Executive Director Steve Hunegs said at the time.
Before hanging up the phone, Brandmire dismissed complaints and couldn’t understand why people would be angry with him.
“People are overly friggin’ sensitive,” he said. “You can’t even say good morning without people getting upset.”
Brandmire is running for the Minnesota House of Representatives in November against DFL incumbent Dan Wolgamott in District 14B.