(GIN) – Somali-American activists are denouncing the recent outbreak of hate speech, Islamophobia and xenophobia linked to the fatal shooting of a white Australian woman by a Somali-American police officer.
Minneapolis City Council Member Abdi Warsame pushed back Sunday at the “trash talk” – including remarks by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann – sparked by the death of Justine Damond in an incident involving two policemen. One of the officers, identified as Mohamed Noor, reportedly was the shooter.
At the Sunday meeting, Warsame was surrounded by some two dozen members of the Somali community as he held a news conference outside the Darul Quba Cultural Center in south Minneapolis – “the heart of the East African community.”
“What we’re seeing is a lot of rhetoric in the media,” Warsame said, blasting what he called “fake news peddlers on Facebook” who had called Noor a “Somali killer cop”. Regarding Rep. Bachmann, he said she was “talking trash” when she insinuated in a speech last week that Noor was an “affirmative-action hire by the hijab-wearing mayor of Minneapolis” — an apparent reference to the fact that Mayor Betsy Hodges has worn a head scarf when meeting with leaders of the city’s Somali-American community.
Bachmann also suggested Noor may have shot Damond for “cultural” reasons.
“This is very dangerous, because you’re seeing the action of an individual, a member of the Police Department, being blamed on the whole community. That’s unacceptable,” he said.
Damond, 40, was killed July 15 after a late night call to 911 to report a possible sexual assault taking place behind her home. Eight minutes later, when officers hadn’t arrived yet, she called again.
When Officers Matthew Harrity and Noor pulled up in their squad car, Damond approached. Noor, in the passenger seat, shot across driver Harrity, hitting Damond in the abdomen with a bullet. Attempts by the officers to revive her were unsuccessful and she died at the scene. Officer Noor has not given a statement and has obtained a lawyer.
Warsame was asked whether Noor or other East African police officers have received death threats since the shooting.
“I’ve spoken with a number of officers who are afraid,” he said, “but the thing is, I’ve seen young children who are afraid … I’ve seen women who are afraid walking down the street and they haven’t committed anything.”
From Sunday until noon Friday, the city of Minneapolis had logged 55 complaints to its civil rights division, many expressing concern or anger about the shooting. Several were characterized as derogatory, discriminatory or anti-Muslim. At least one death threat was made against Noor.
Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community in the U.S., roughly 57,000 people according to the latest census figures, most of whom live in the Minneapolis area. Somali immigrants have been coming to Minnesota from their war-torn homeland since the 1990s. Last April, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced deportation plans for about 5,000 Somalis despite the long history of U.S. involvement in Somalia since the early 1990s. w/pix of Minneapolis Somali-American officers