By Anthony Noel
Tell Robin Hensel “You can’t fight City Hall” and she’ll probably laugh in your face.
Hensel’s been doing it successfully for years, despite her city of Little Falls, Minnesota’s dogged efforts to silence the free-speech and peace advocate.
After securing yet another victory for free speech in Little Falls earlier this year, Hensel is now running for mayor.
The 60-year-old gained a reputation as a dissenter in her town thanks to her letters to the editor, the signs and artwork she regularly places in her yard and vehicles, and the peace rallies she organizes near Fort Ripley, a sprawling nearby military installation. She routinely castigates Little Falls’ current mayor and city council – what she calls the “ruling clique” – for writing ordinances limiting free speech (and rewriting them when she finds loopholes), along with the United States for indiscriminate war making.
City officials’ attempts to silence Hensel have consistently failed. For example, they passed a “bench ordinance” in clear violation of the First Amendment. It attempted to bar Hensel from taking out a paid ad on a city bench expressing her dissent. The case went to court, and the City was forced to settle. In other words: It lost.
Now Hensel, an endorser of the NPA’s Unified Platform who has worked to promote the organization and its principles since its founding, is putting her beliefs on the line, seeking to unseat incumbent Little Falls Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem. Her e-mail has been hacked, she’s been attacked in the press by the business interests in Little Falls (whose pockets, she says, are lined by the ruling clique) – but she remains undaunted.
And, Hensel says, win or lose, she has already found loopholes in the city’s latest ordinance attempting to limit her speech. And she has every intention of exploiting them.
Activists like Hensel ensure that those who seek to keep Little Falls – and more broadly, the American public – under their collective thumb will live, as the ancient Chinese curse goes, “in interesting times.”
Is life in your little town this interesting? Probably not. Until each of us finds the will to put our beliefs on the line as clearly and unapologetically as Robin Hensel has, one thing is for sure: We’ll be the ones living under a curse.
Campaign contact info: