The past few weeks have been marked by protests all over the state (and the country, and the world) in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department.
These came in all shapes and sizes, each with their own brand of tension. This video, taken on Friday, gives us a sample of what was on offer in the small town of Kasson, Minnesota, just a handful of miles from Rochester.
We don’t get to see the protesters themselves. We do get to see the man in a T-shirt and suspenders who’s yelling at them.
“Overprivileged little kids,” he says. “You set one foot on that fucking property, you guys are going to be in some deep, serious shit. Understood?”
“We’re not bothering you,” a young-sounding voice says off-camera. The man says he doesn’t “give a fuck.”
“You kids need the shit knocked out of every single one of you,” he says.
“You’re threatening kids,” one of them responds.
“Threatening kids? You know what? You guys need your fucking asses beat is what you fucking need.”
“You’re a fucking idiot,” a protester says simply. “Go mow your lawn.”
The man’s at a loss for words for a second.
Then he turns and walks away, cursing over his shoulder and telling them they should be in school (“It’s summer!”) and, omitting the slur for mental disability here, they should probably be in summer school (“We’re literally in college!”).
The video appeared on the Spotted in Rochester Facebook page, posted by a Kasson mom named Susie Paynter, last week.
“Three young women, my daughter included, stood on a public sidewalk, holding signs of support for the victims of systemic racism in our country,” she wrote. “Many honked and waved in support of them, thank you. Some flipped them off or yelled as they drove by, whatever. This man, however, who was apparently mowing the grass near them, decided to walk over and threaten them.”
In a matter of days, it blew up, traveling onto several different Reddit forums.
“Yup,” one Redditor commented. “That’s Kasson.”
According to a report by KTTC, the man in the video subsequently got a talking-to by Kasson Mayor Chris McKern, who said he “expressed [his] disappointment and discussed how he chose to talk to people.”
“I got that, he told me that he could have handled it differently and not handle it the same way, which doesn’t excuse it,” he said.
A press release from the Kasson Police Department tells much the same story as what was laid out in the post. It describes the inciting incident as “a group of peaceful protesters” being “confronted by an angry citizen” who made some “threatening comments.” These actions, it says, were “not consistent with the values of the Kasson Police Department” or the community at large.
But on Tuesday, it says, the “male subject of the video” reached out to police and said he wanted to apologize.
“Later that day, a meeting took place at the Kasson Police Department,” the release says. “An apology was extended and accepted by the protesters. A productive dialogue ensued and the matter was resolved. The protesters are not asking for criminal charges to be filed.”
That man's name, it turns out, is Tony Paulson. He briefly confirmed his identity with City Pages and backed up what happened in the police's press release.
"I didn't handle myself properly," he says. But they got together, he said he was sorry, and they had "a nice conversation."
Paynter updated her Facebook post that same day to spread the word about the apology.
“The girls have encouraged him to educate himself on the BLM movement and gave him several reference points to start with,” Paynter wrote. “We would like to move on at this point and put the focus back on the real issues that exist in our country regarding the prejudices that POC face every day.”