ROCK SPRINGS — While it’s been a challenge to operate a new business in the digital age, an incident involving racism in the community has added more stress for one businesswoman.
According to local business owner Mai Larsen, she had been awake at night thinking about whether or not she made the right decision to move back to Rock Springs. She had lived in the community before from 2012 to 2014.
As Larsen was locking up her shop recently when someone shouted, “Why don’t you go back to your (expletive) country?”
Larsen was born in Puerto Rico. She is a U.S. citizen.
“It threw me off,” she described. “Why was that necessary? They don’t know me. “
“I am an American.”
Earlier, Larsen’s 25-year-old daughter noticed that someone was sitting in a parked vehicle on Broadway Street near the shop. Since it was after 7 p.m., they weren’t able to clearly see the vehicle or the male inside of it.
“We rushed home and we realized we had left our new cooler with refreshments for the class we had,” she shared. “That’s how scared we were.”
Larsen is considering installing cameras in her business.
“If they think I’m a foreigner. Would they break in and destroy the property? Are they watching us?”
“It was just rude and uncalled for,” she said. “We’re all here for the good of the country. We have good intentions.”
Local residents have visited with Larsen and told her to “hang in there,” “things will get better, “don’t give up.”
“Most people look at us for the color of our skin and not for who we are as a person,” she expressed. “The color of our skin and where we’re from should not matter.”
The Cheyenne City Council is considering an anti harassment ordinance which is similar to a local hate crimes law.
Larsen posted her experience on social media, which caught Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo’s attention.
“The recent issue with an individual harassing this new business is ridiculous,” he told Rocket-Miner. “I’m disappointed that this occurred here in Rock Springs.
“I believe for the most part, our community is very welcoming and we do claim to be the ‘Home of 56 Nationalities.’”
He added, “We support one another for the common good and we should treat each other with respect, as families do.”
“This apparently was an isolated case of one person’s opinion,” he stated. “This type of harassment is something that we won’t stand for, yet, we know some individuals just don’t get it. My job as Mayor is to bring our community together so they do get what our overall goals and vision is for our community.”
Rock Springs Chief of Police Dwane Pacheco was surprised that the incident took place.
“This type of behavior is hurtful and inappropriate to say the least and does not reflect who we are in Rock Springs,” Pacheco expressed.
According to Pacheco, he is interested in the proposed ordinance the city of Cheyenne is discussing.
Kaumo has been discussing the ordinance with Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins.
“Mayor Collins has informed me they may consider an anti-harassment ordinance,” Kaumo revealed. “I haven’t heard of the progress of this but would be interested in the conversation.”
Kaumo added, “We haven’t had this discussion here in Rock Springs but I may run it by our city council to see if there is an interest.”
Meanwhile, other business owners are encouraging Larsen to stay in the community.
Rose Floral of Green River sent a bouquet of flowers to Larsen after her post went viral.
Larsen said, “That made me so happy, I cried