WILLMAR, Minn. — A district judge has denied a harassment restraining order sought against Victoria Guillemard, who helped organize the Murdock Area Alliance Against Hate.
District Judge Stephanie Beckman ruled Thursday, April 29, that Guillemard was exercising her right to free speech about a public concern, and that there was no evidence that she targeted or harassed Jason Plourde.
Plourde, of Willmar, asked the court for the restraining order. He alleged that Guillemard “harassed him because of his church affiliation by stalking him through his social media accounts and through the organization … ”
Plourde is an ordained priest in the Asatru Folk Assembly in Murdock. The group purchased a vacant church building in Murdock over a year ago to use as its place of worship. The Murdock Area Alliance Against Hate organized in response to its arrival in the Swift County community of about 200 people.
He filed this as an intimidation tactic,” said Guillemard. “ This was an attempt to silence me and keep me from using my First Amendment rights.”
“From the start, it struck us a misuse of the harassment restraining order,” said her attorney, Brian Wojtalewicz, of Appleton.
Guillemard and members of the Murdock Area Alliance Against Hate charge that the Asatru Folk Assembly advocates a racist ideology. She points out that the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center recognize it as a white supremacist organization.
Plourde said he has no history of hate. The Asatru Folk Assembly only allows members of Northern European descent. “Our gods are our ancestors, our family,” said Plourde to explain the exclusion of non-whites.
“Shame, it’s really just a big case of bullying and cancel culture going on,” Plourde said.
He said he was satisfied with the ruling, however. He cited a final point made by the judge. She warned “that if others choose to increase conduct to cross boundaries” or “infringe on individual rights to be free to speak, a harassment restraining order could be issued under different circumstances or different facts.”
In the ruling, the judge found that Guillemard’s concerns about efforts by Plourde “of infiltrating the community for recruitment efforts for White Supremacy for (Plourde) and his group are of public concern.”
Along with his role as a priest, Plourde operates a financial consulting business in Willmar, is a member of the Willmar Area Chamber of Commerce and volunteers at the Hawk Creek Animal Shelter. He charged that Murdock Area Alliance Against Hate members have attacked his business on its Facebook page and contacted the manager of a gym to which he belongs, as well as the Chamber of Commerce and animal shelter in order to get him removed.
The court found that Guillemard contacted the gym and Chamber urging them to reach out to her after she informed them of his associations. The court said that she could not be responsible for the conduct of other members of the group.
The judge also noted that Guillemard had limited her comments to matters of public concern. “Here, this Court finds there was no harassment because the Respondent is engaged in education and outreach directed at the actions and speech of Petitioner and his group and not focused on him as a person as the focal point.”
Guillemard said the civil litigation aimed at her has only made her more determined to speak against racism and white supremacy. She is a law student preparing to become an attorney. She said her goal as an attorney is to speak for those whose voices are often silenced.
In her first step, she said, she hit the pavement hard. "I got through the marathon and I won."
She wants it known that the case makes clear the right to speak out. “The lesson learned here is you have every right as a community member to call out things you see as a public concern, especially when it comes to racism and discrimination.”