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MN Muslim group calling for hate crime charge after man accused of throwing a pig's foot at Somali-American

WILLMAR, Minn. — The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations wants a Willmar man charged with a hate crime after an incident at a farmer's market last weekend.

Willmar police were called to the farmer's market about 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 12, on a report that an individual had allegedly been cursing at a young adult male Somali-American selling vegetables at a stand.

According to law enforcement reports, he then threw a pig's foot at the Somali.

The Willmar Police Department identified the man as Joseph Fernkes, 61, of Willmar.

CAIR-MN now wants Fernkes charged with a hate crime.

"If you curse a person's faith and then throw an object clearly designed to offend and intimidate, you should be charged with a hate crime," said CAIR-MN Civil Rights Director Amir Malik, in a press release.

According to a Willmar police press release, several people witnessed the incident and some provided photos of Fernkes, who left the area on a wheelchair scooter.

Officers then found Fernkes and issued a citation for disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor chrage requiring a court appearance. If the crime was not witnessed by a licensed officer, it is not an arrestable offense, the police release said.

The CAIR-MN release said Fernkes cursed Islam's Prophet Muhammad and used anti-Muslim slurs. Further, people often use pig or pork products to offend Muslims, who do not consume those products.

The national CAIR organization has reported a 91 percent increase in anti-Muslim incidents in the second quarter of 2017 over the same period in 2016.

The case has been forwarded to the courts, and Fernkes' first court date is still pending.