Protest for Ahmednur
Last Friday, the family of Ahmednur Ali, the young man shot last year in front of the Brian Coyle center on the West Bank, gathered at City Hall to protest the release of the young man charged with his murder. I share their pain and frustration, and welcomed them when they arrived. This case was particularly disappinting because we a credible witness had stepped forward, but at the last minute, decided not to testify.
I spoke with the protester when the visited City Hall and committed to working with them to find more and better ways to encourage and support witneses you have the courage to step forward and to follow through and testify. I look forward to scheduling a meeting with some of the protest leaders in the weeks ahead.
I'm thankful to groups like Students Against Violence for their organizing - I hope that more and more Somali youth will hear their positive message of hope, peace, and responsibility.
The City's focus on youth violence prevention means, in part, that we are no longer treating youth violence as simply a criminal justice issue. However, in order for this program to work, the criminal justice aspect of the City's response must work; there must be meaningful consequences for crimes of violence, especially homicide. Unfortunately, none of the three homicides that occurred last year on the West Bank have resulted in convictions, to date.
This means that we all need to do more. Members of the ommunity who witness violent crimes need to listen to Students Against Violence and come forward. The Minneapolis Police Department and Hennepin County Attorney's Office need to make witnesses who come forward feel safe and protected from possible retribution. I will be advocating for them to do more to make the case and to demonstrate that they can keep witnesses safe. The rest of us, the community in which this terrible violence is occurring and going unpunished, need to support the families of the victims, encourage the witnesses, and set a positive example of solving our problems without resorting to violence.
On that last point, I'm encouraged to see the anti-violence work that's going on in the community. In addition to SAV, there is a new "culture of peace" program that has made great progress on the West Bank. It's a collaboration between the West Bank Community Coalition and the Somali American Education Program, with support from the Center on Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA). Two weeks ago, a large and diverse group of Somalis - men and women, young people and elders - graduated from their peacemaker training. The next step is for these folks to engage their neighbors around nonviolent problem-solving and mediation.
It's terrible to hear that a young man's murderer has gone free. But the great work of so many people on creating a culture of peace in our neighborhoods gives me hope.