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Native organizations push back on racist rant

Screenshot
A passerby, left, encourages the man to move away from the father and daughter who were re-packing groceries in the entryway of the West Fairbanks Fred Meyer store on June 26.

Fairbanks Native Association and Tanana Chiefs Conference issued a joint statement about the incident that occurred last week near the entrance to the West Fairbanks Fred Meyer store. A videocirculating on social media shows a non-Native man berating two people, who the joint statement says are from a village in the TCC region.

In the video, shot on June 26, the man is heard harassing the shoppers and using racist epithets, telling them they “are what is wrong with this country,” and that they shouldn’t be allowed to shop.

“Yeah, you ---ing Natives shouldn't even be allowed to ---ing shop. Go back out to the woods and do your ---ing bull----."

In the joint statement, both Melissa Charlie, FNA executive director, and Brian Ridley, TCC chief and chair, denounce such behavior and are requesting appropriate follow-up. They said “the harassment of Alaska Natives who are simply shopping for groceries and other items at one of the only grocery stores in Fairbanks is inexcusable.”

The West Fairbanks Fred Meyer is the closest grocery to the airport.

A 2018 study by the research group Information Insights estimates Alaska Native organizations pump $1 billion into the Fairbanks regional economy every year. Many village residents come to Fairbanks for medical appointments and shopping trips, often spending hundreds of dollars on groceries that are cheaper to repack and fly back home as freight or baggage than to purchase the same goods at their village store, if they can find them there.

A sign about threatening behavior in the University Safeway store window, across the street from West Fairbanks Fred Meyer, has been up since the beginning of the pandemic.
Robyne
/
KUAC
A sign about threatening behavior in the University Safeway store window, across the street from West Fairbanks Fred Meyer, has been up since the beginning of the pandemic.

FNA represents some 10,000 Alaska Natives and American Indians in the Fairbanks area. TCC represents 20,000 Indigenous people across the broader Interior. In the statement, the organizations ask Fred Meyer to ban the man in the video from the store, and to ensure security prevents such incidents from happening again.

On Tuesday Fred Meyer parent company, Kroger, released a statement about the incident, saying they “are disheartened by the offensive actions recorded in this video. At Fred Meyer, our core values are rooted in Safety, Respect, Diversity, and Inclusion. We stand firmly against any acts of hate and are dedicated to providing a safe and welcome shopping experience for all of our customers. As such we have security protocols in place to deescalate such incidents, and we work in close partnership with local law enforcement to address any safety concerns.”

The statement says the store is “in the process of identifying the individual involved and will issue a no-trespass order, as his actions do not represent the values we uphold in our shared community.“

Robyne began her career in public media news at KUAC, coiling cables in the TV studio and loading reel-to-reel tape machines for the radio station.