A small-town Minnesota bar that displays Confederate flags and paraphernalia is suing a social justice group, alleging that the group’s protests have damaged its reputation and hindered the bar’s ability to book music acts.
Rollie’s Rednecks and Longnecks in Sauk Rapids, Minn., sued Wednesday in Benton County District Court against St. Cloud, Minn.-based UniteCloud and its executive director, Natalie Ringsmuth.
The lawsuit accuses UniteCloud of “harassing persons and entities it perceives to hold different views on political matters, social events, and government action.”
UniteCloud published false and misleading statements about the bar, “with the specific goal of harming Rollie’s ability to do business and continue to attract the amazing local and national music acts that have made them famous,” the bar’s owner, Roland Hogrefe, said in a statement.
“If you hold different political or social views than Natalie and her group, they will go after you and not stop until they shut you down,” Hogrefe said. “Natalie and her group are piggybacking on the ‘Cancel Culture’ to try and destroy people and businesses they disagree with. That is wrong and I am willing to take the fight to them, so they can’t do this to other small businesses in our community.”
UniteCloud “seeks to foster an empathetic community that chooses to stand up for one another regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, abilities, or socio-economic background,” according to a vision statement on the group’s website. The group “provides education and actionable steps to resolve tension and restore dignity to all people in Central Minnesota.”
Ringsmuth did not immediately return a message Wednesday seeking comment.
Earlier this month, UniteCloud supported community members who protested the bar’s displays of Confederate flags, signs and other paraphernalia. As a result, the area tourism promotion agency, Visit Greater St. Cloud, took down the bar’s listing from its tourism website as well as from Explore Minnesota, the state’s official tourism website.
In its court complaint, the bar says that its reputation “is crucial to its business, as it brings in both customers and entertainment acts.” It accuses UniteCloud of using its social media accounts to spread stories about purportedly racist and bigoted experiences at Rollie’s that never happened, according to the complaint.
Hogrefe was convicted of a felony in 2011 after he ran down a black man with his truck on a St. Cloud street. According to Benton County court records, Hogrefe was sentenced to a year and a day in state prison after pleading guilty to a felony charge of leaving the scene of an injury accident. His prison sentence was stayed, and he was ordered to serve 90 days in the county jail.
Media reports at the time said Hogrefe drove by a group of black men and exchanged insults. He turned his vehicle around and drove back at the men, striking and injuring one, then drove away. He was arrested after police identified his distinctive truck.
©2020 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)