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Quad-Citians distance themselves from far-right speaker at Bettendorf immigration forum

Quad-Citians distance themselves from far-right speaker at Bettendorf immigration forum

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The Scott County Teenage Republicans hosting immigration forum.

"Angel family" speakers Mary Ann Mendoza, left, Kiyan Michael and Deborah Elkins answer questions from the audience during the Scott County Teenage Republicans hosting a immigration forum on Monday at Pleasant View Baptist Church.

Quad-City residents are distancing themselves from an incendiary far-right activist who delivered racist remarks Monday at a forum hosted by the Scott County Teenage Republicans.

Nick Fuentes, a far-right provocateur from Chicagoland known for espousing racist and anti-Semitic views, spoke for about 20 minutes at the end of the Quad Cities Immigration Forum, hosted at the Pleasant View Baptist Church in Bettendorf.

Fuentes told the crowd about the “drastic consequences” of immigration from non-European, non-white countries. He said that driving around majority non-white neighborhoods of cities like Chicago shows how racial and ethnic diversification is “not good.”

Now, others who spoke at the forum are distancing themselves from Fuentes, who has become a darling of the far-right.

“I had no idea who Fuentes was up until a few minutes ago," tweeted Bobby Schilling, former congressman and Republican candidate for Iowa’s second congressional district, who spoke before Fuentes took the stage. "His rhetoric is disgusting and I want in no way to be associated with him. His racist anti-Semitic statements do not reflect my own views. I proudly support Israel and I love people of all colors and ethnic backgrounds.”

Fuentes was not originally billed to speak at the event, which was mostly about illegal immigration. Several attendees said they did not know who Fuentes was before he spoke. Organizers declined to say how Fuentes came to speak at the forum and who had invited him. 

“I was not aware that Nick Fuentes was going to speak at the Scott County Teenage Republicans forum until he began speaking,” tweeted Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a state senator and Republican candidate for Iowa’s second congressional district who also spoke before Fuentes. “Fuentes' views are racist and anti-Semitic and they in no way reflect my own. There is no room in this country for racism, antisemitism, xenophobia and hate. I have been a long supporter of Israel and celebrate people of all backgrounds.”

In an interview, Schilling added he thinks Fuentes’ views are “bulls—” and Fuentes is “completely off the wall.”

The forum, hosted by the Scott County Teenage Republicans, featured speeches from “angel parents,” or people whose children were killed by immigrants living in the country illegally. Two angel parents called a Times reporter Tuesday afternoon to blast the “fake media” and distance themselves from Fuentes.

“We don’t agree with Nick Fuentes’ stance at all,” said Mary Ann Mendoza, whose son Sgt. Brandon Mendoza was killed in 2014 when an immigrant in the country illegally and driving under the influence slammed into his car. “We never would have spoken at the event had we known he was going to speak there.”

Mendoza said Fuentes “weaseled his way” into the program and was given time to speak only because another speaker had canceled. Schilling also confirmed that Fuentes is “known for infiltrating Republican events.”

Adam Parcel, a student at Davenport’s West High School and founder of the Scott County Teenage Republicans, said only that “we would like to affirm the statements given by the angel parents” and declined to comment further.

Pastor Ed Hedding of Pleasant View Baptist Church declined to comment. The church’s Facebook page was taken down as of Tuesday.

A 2018 study in the journal Criminology concluded that "undocumented immigration does not increase violence."

After his speech, Fuentes answered questions from the audience. No one in the audience pushed back or disavowed what he had said.

Kiyan Michael, an angel mom from Florida who spoke with her husband about the death of her son Brandon Randolph Michael, said Tuesday, “We are black — we have not a racial issue when it comes to immigration.” She added that “we don’t have any control over who comes on the stage” and that she “absolutely” disavows Fuentes.

“My son was half-Hispanic,” Mendoza added. “None of the families up on that stage were racist in the true meaning of the word. The word’s thrown around too freely now.”

Fuentes attended the white nationalist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, in 2017. He also appeared at Iowa State University in March where he spoke to over 50 students before being escorted away by campus police. He was later denounced in a statement by the Iowa State College Republicans.

In the Quad-Cities, his appearance has concerned minority communities.

“The idea that diversity is not good is deeply racist and un-American,” said Rabbi Linda Bertenthal, of Davenport’s Temple Emanuel. “Fuentes doesn’t understand what I think is the most basic lesson of Judaism and the most basic ideal of America: All people are created in the image of God. It’s not white people in the image of God. It’s all people in the image of God. Diversity is good.”

When Allan Ross learned that Fuentes spoke Monday night at a church in Bettendorf, he was very concerned.

Ross is the executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Quad-Cities. He’s also the son of a Holocaust survivor.

"It’s a free country — he can espouse all he wants,” Ross said. Fuentes has mocked the Holocaust in the past and questioned whether 6 million Jews were killed.

Ross added, “I think it’s incumbent upon the leadership of both parties that haters shouldn’t be given a platform and should be marginalized."

Graham Ambrose is the Iowa politics reporter for the Quad-City Times. 


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