Dan Bunde is the police chief in Madison Lake, Minnesota. He has been at the center of a controversy that extends way past his small town, ever since a video surfaced of him complaining about people speaking foreign languages and saying, “wake up, America.”
Bunde recorded the video this summer, while he was on vacation at Yellowstone National Park. He posted it to his Facebook page, where it didn’t get much attention until this week, suddenly, a tipster alerted local Mankato TV station KEYC to the video.
Bunde took down his post, but not before KEYC had saved a copy. The video has since gone viral on social media, with many denouncing Bunde as a racist and a xenophobe. You can watch it here.
Here’s what you need to know about Dan Bunde:
1. He Describes Himself as a ‘Proud Veteran’ and Seems Angry That There Are Foreign Tourists in Yellowstone
At the start of Bunde’s controversial video, he is sitting and looking straight into the camera, wearing a cap and a pair of polarized sunglasses. Bunde says, “I’m sitting here in Yellowstone Park in the good old U.S.A., proud veteran, and listen to the languages I hear.” He tips his cap, which reads “veteran.”
Then he pans the camera around; you can see that he’s sitting on a lawn and there are lots of people sitting on the same lawn, all around him. It’s hard to hear what they are saying on the video.
“All I hear it blalalala,” says Bunde, fanning his tongue to make the noise. “Wake up, America,” he says.
After the video was shared with a local, southern Minnesota TV station, it quickly went viral on twitter. Social media users denounced Bunde and started calling for him to be disciplined.
2. Madison Lake Officials Said They Know Bunde, and He Isn’t a Racist
At first, it seemed like Bunde wasn’t going to face any repercussions for posting the video. The city administrator of Madison Lake, Curt Kephart, said that he was “concerned” by the video, but that he had no plans to discipline Bunde for posting the video. As of now, he is still working as police chief.
Kephart told a local Fox affiliate that he’s known Bunde for a long time and that he disagrees with people who are calling Bunde a racist. “This man has been chief for 20 years. Does somebody all of a sudden turn into a racist? I can tell you personal things that would tell me this guy is not a racist, but people are reading this as a racist comment and I’m not going to argue with that.”
However, news about Bunde’s video quickly spread outside of southern Minnesota. It wasn’t long before social meda was all abuzz about the video. Activists posted the names and contact information of Madison Lake’s city administrator and the county commissioner, urging people to call and complain about Bunde.
3. Bunde’s Friends Are Posting Pictures of ‘Snowflakes’ and American Flags to his Facebook Page
Bunde has taken down the video that landed him in hot water and generated so much anger on social media. As his video went viral, Bunde himself went silent, hunkering down and refusing to talk to journalists. Even his Facebook page has been drastically pruned.
But Bunde’s friends have been posting memes which seem designed to jab back at Bunde’s critics. One of them, posted two days ago, is a cartoon of two men in the snow. The caption reads, “snowflakes everywhere.” Some conservatives like to mock liberals by calling them “snowflakes” who fancy themselves to be as unique, fragile, and special as a snowflake.
That same friend of Bunde’s posted an image of the bald eagle and the American flag. Another friend wrote, “that’s what makes our country great.”
4. Days After the Troubling Video Surfaced, the City of Madison Lake Announced They Would ‘Review’ It
The video of Bunde mocking other languages first surfaced on Monday, September 10. At that time, the Madison Lake city administrator, Curt Kephart, said that he was “concerned” by the video but that he didn’t have any plans to take action on it. He also defended Bunde’s reputation. Bunde has worked for the Madison Lake police department for 20 years and, Kephart said, he isn’t a racist.
But on September 12, Kephart said that the city would “review” the video after all. It’s not clear what he means by “review,” and it’s also not clear what sort of action the city might take when the review is concluded. Kephart’s latest statement is still fairly supportive of Bunde; it stresses that Bunde made his video while he was on vacation, and not while he was acting as police chief.
The statement says, “The City of Madison Lake, MN was recently made aware of a video posted by Dan Bunde to his personal Facebook account while Mr. Bunde was on vacation in Wyoming. Mr. Bunde is the Chief of Police of the city. The city has no control over what individuals post to their individual social media accounts. Individual posts do not speak for the City of Madison Lake. The City of Madison Lake will review and take appropriate action if action is deemed warranted.”
5. Both Social Media Users and Madison Lake Locals Have Called on the City to Take Action Against Bunde
Social media has been flooded with criticism of Dan Bunde’s video, and with calls for him to be disciplined. Some twitter users have posted the names and contact information of Madison Lake’s administrator and commissioner, urging as many people as possible to call and ask for Bunde to be disciplined.
But the outrage over Bunde isn’t just on the internet. Some people right in Madison Lake are writing letters to the editor demanding action on this case. You can read one of them here.
The writer argues that, while it’s possible that Bunde isn’t a racist, his words certainly are. The letter writer goes on to say that Madison Lake has a “moral imperative” to act in this case. He writes,
“To not take meaningful steps in this incident is a sign that Madison Lake agrees with Bunde. How many people have been given tickets instead of warnings because they speak a different language? Every citation and arrest made by Bunde is now eligible to be overturned and looked at more closely because of his racist remarks. This is not a First Amendment issue. He is not going to be arrested for what he said, as what he said is not illegal. But Madison Lake has a moral imperative to act on it.”