Customers inside Lavazza Coffee & Cocktails at Karmel Mall, a hub for Somali-owned businesses in south Minneapolis, roared with rage while watching President Donald Trump on TV as he spoke at a campaign rally Thursday in their town.
They reacted most strongly when Trump vowed to curb the influx of refugees and took aim at U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., calling her "a disgrace to our country."
"I knew it," said Mohamed Ali, the coffee shop's manager who warned patrons that the president would say something critical about Somalis. "This guy is a big hater."
Some recited difficulties that have befallen the community since Trump's election, including a lack of jobs and a rise in hate crimes.
Trump's visit also spurred anxiety and fear for many Somalis here.
The nation's largest Muslim civil rights group and local Somali-elected leaders were sounding the alarm about the long-term implications of Trump's visit, suggesting it could spark a fresh surge in hate crimes in Minnesota — home to the nation's largest Somali community.
"We're also definitely concerned about his anti-Muslim and anti-Somali language," said Jaylani Hussein, who leads the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which had urged Muslim-Americans to join protests Thursday.
Somali Republican Adan Mohamed, a longtime resident, said he supports Trump's policies but not his foul mouth."I don't like when Trump attacks my community," said Mohamed, 31. "But he's my president."
Too close to home
State Rep. Mohamud Noor, DFL-Minneapolis, said it's one thing dealing with Trump's anti-Somali slurs and his hateful posts on social media about immigrants and refugees. But his visit to Minneapolis struck fear close to home, Noor said.
Fresh in Minnesota Somalis' minds was Trump's effort to bar refugees from Somalia and six other Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, his past remarks that Somalis are a "disaster" and a strain on Minnesota, and his constant attacks on Omar.
"When it's happening in your own town and city it is more close to home than when it's somewhere far," said Noor. "So we are trying to temper the fear that exists in the community."
State Rep. Hodan Hassan, DFL-Minneapolis, said she opposed Trump's visit, asserting that it could have negative blowback on the community.
Easing Somalis' fears
Hassan and Noor, both Somalis, said they had been going around the community to ease people's fears. The two now plan to hold community conversations.
"Trump, his hate and his bigotry is not welcome in Minnesota," Hassan said. "The Somali community here is strong. We know who we are, we know we are a valuable community here and we just want to make sure everyone is safe and protected."
To address the fear and anxiety in the community, Minnesota Somali leaders said they are working with the FBI, have hired armed security guards to patrol Somali-owned businesses and are urging people to stay vigilant, particularly Muslim women who wear a hijab.
Faiza Mahamud • 612-673-4203