Police, local groups in Fargo-Moorhead deny tension between ethnic groupsby Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio
Moorhead, Minn. — Moorhead police are investigating a weekend fight between a large group of immigrants from Sudan and Liberia. It's not the first such public altercation between the two groups, but leaders in both the Sudanese and Liberian communities in Fargo-Moorhead deny there is any widespread tension between the groups.
Police say a brawl broke out early Sunday morning outside a Moorhead bowling alley. Details are still sketchy, but one group had rented a room to hold an event at the bowling alley.
Police estimate between 60 and 100 people were involved in the melee. One person had injuries requiring medical treatment.
Sudanese and Liberian refugees have moved to Fargo over the past decade. Tension between the two ethnic groups goes back at least two years, and there have been several fights.
Gadi Edward, a Sudanese leader in Fargo, said there is no tension between the Sudanese and Liberian communities in Fargo. He said the conflict is among young men. The reason is often as simple as a fight over a girl which escalates into retaliation.
Edward said he and other community leaders will try to negotiate an end to the hostilities.
"We want to sit down and talk and identify what is the problem exactly," Edward said. "This city is our city so we don't want to all the time get in trouble. That is not good."
Edward said he worries an innocent bystander will be hurt if the incidents continue. He believes part of the problem is young people having large parties and drinking alcohol. He said alcohol inflames any dispute.
Emmanuel Flomo, a leader in the Liberian community in Fargo, agrees. He said most of the conflicts are between young men and that they need to take responsibility for stopping the fighting.
"Most of the kids, they don't listen to their parents. We try talking about it," Flomo said. "I tell them, 'why don't you stop fighting?' And they say, 'but we don't start the fight.'"
Flomo said in recent months there have been a number of incidents with windows broken and tires slashed as each side retaliate against the other. He said he's hopeful elders in both communities will find a way to calm the tension.
Fargo Police Officer Cristie Jacobsen, the police department cultural liaison, knows the two communities as well as anyone.
Jacobsen said this dispute and others should not be seen as racial or ethnic tension in the community. She said Sudanese and Liberians socialize regularly and often attend the same church.
"So many of the Sudanese and Liberian individuals that are here are amazing to know and have amazing stories and are doing great things," Jacobsen said. "So I hate to see situations like this taint the names of those communities."
Jacobsen estimates the number of Sudanese in Fargo-Moorhead at 800-1000 and the Liberian population at about 500.
Jacobsen said several men aged 18-24 have instigated many of the incidents involving the two groups.
Moorhead police say they are confident the investigation of this weekends brawl will lead to charges against those who started the fight.
- All Things Considered, 12/20/2010, 4:50 p.m.