MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder visited Minneapolis Friday to praise the city for its program to reduce youth violence, but was interrupted several times by outbursts from protesters who claim the government has been unfairly targeting anti-war activists in a federal investigation.


Holder was in Minnesota to headline a conference on youth violence prevention, and to meet with young adults from the area’s Somali community — who have felt under fire in recent years as authorities investigate the travels of men who returned to Somalia to possibly fight with a terror group.


He also held a larger closed-door town hall meeting with area Muslims to talk about their concerns about law enforcement and “Islamophobia.”


But the dozens of anti-war activists who attended the morning conference on youth anti-violence stole some of the spotlight. They said Holder was responsible for the September FBI raids and subpoenas of local activists, and that he has the sole power to stop the grand jury investigation into allegations they provided material support to terrorists.


Tracy Molm, a former University of Minnesota student whose home was raided, was the first protester to interrupt Holder’s speech. She spoke with him afterward.


“The only phrase he used over and over again was, `We’re going to have to agree to disagree,”‘ she said. “I have a movement of people around the country and outside who agree with me, so it’s on you to stop this.”


The activists cite a September Inspector General’s report that they say criticizes the FBI under Holder’s administration for improperly targeting advocacy groups such as Greenpeace and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The lengthy report said the basis for opening some investigations of those affiliated with groups was “factually weak.” In some cases, the report said the FBI classified cases of nonviolent civil disobedience as “Acts of Terrorism.”


Molm said Holder told her he has a different interpretation of the report.


She and other protesters were escorted from the forum, but could be heard chanting and drumming outside, as Holder praised the city of Minneapolis for its program to reduce youth violence. Holder pledged the Department of Justice would support the program, and said he plans to bring it to a national scale.


He said reducing youth violence is a “moral calling” and one of the most important tasks in shaping the nation’s future. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said the program has led to a reduction in the numbers of youths involved in violent crime, including youth victims.


After the conference, Holder met with young adults in the Somali community, and held a larger town hall with members of the wider Muslim community.


U.S. Attorney for Minnesota B. Todd Jones, who was with Holder all day, said the attorney general met with the young Somali adults because that age group has been affected by the men who traveled to Somalia to possibly join al-Shabab, as well as a more recent federal investigation into human trafficking of young girls for sex.


“I don’t think it’s lost on anybody that we have some attention to pay to these issues involving Somali youth,” Jones said. He said Holder met with those ages 18-29 for about 40 minutes.


“They’re concerned about issues of profiling, harassment, perceptions of harassment. They are concerned about Islamophobia, being targeted, and the demonization of their religion, to a certain degree,” he said.


Jones said the group had suggestions for law enforcement and prosecutors. He declined to be specific.


“The AG did a lot of listening,” Jones said. “He very much appreciated the opportunity to hear from folks in an unfiltered way.”


Jones said the prosecutions have ramifications in the community when it comes to perceptions and stereotyping, and the overarching theme was that many felt they were being “demonized” for their religion. Jones said he and Holder made it clear the Department of Justice doesn’t prosecute communities, and works to protect communities from hate crimes.


Abdirizak Bihi, director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center, attended the town hall meeting and said he was impressed.


He said Holder seems to genuinely care about civil rights issues Somalis face. Holder talked to the group about the different ways they can fight discrimination and how important it is for police to help them do that, Bihi said. Holder also distributed material on legal advocacy resources.


“I was very glad that he was well-immersed on the issue,” Bihi said, adding that Holder made it clear that part of his job was to protect Americans from domestic and foreign terrorists.


The group was shown a promotional video on Somalis living in Minnesota, but Bihi said it was “too perfect,” and didn’t portray a realistic view of the issues.


“It kind of showed a great picture that was beautiful,” he said. “But the issues confronting our youth, making them vulnerable to gang violence or radicalization, were not presented.”


Saeed Fahia, executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, said he was impressed to see so many powerful African Americans together — referring to Holder, Jones and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison.


Fahia said he thought the meeting was productive, but that his most important question for Holder was never answered.


“Why did he feel he needed to meet with Somalis as opposed to other groups?” he asked. “Why Somalis and why now?”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (19)
  1. Victim Du Jour says:

    Potheads who smoke weed with terrorists are suppose to be treated the same as anyone else who eats munchies with terrorists.

  2. glenn says:

    the first mistake was allowing somalians into the state without proper screener re their education, background,etc…..we have given away our country and our state to these foreigners who do not assimilate into our society but instead demand free food, freed rent,free legal advice, etc etc

    1. Michele says:

      Weren’t we foreigners, too?

      1. Sarah in Outstate MN says:

        I was never a foreigner. I was born here. I am willing to bet you were too. Our ancestors were immigrants and I do think glenn is just discriminating against them unfairly. I know a few Somali’s and they are descent people.

        1. Citizen of Minnesota says:

          @Sarah. Unless you are a Native American, even if you were born here, you are an immigrant–the produce of immigrant parents. Some of my ancestors met the Mayflower. Did yours?

      2. Guy says:

        Speak for yourself & my (Cherokee) great great great Grandmother will do the same

    2. Sam says:

      You’re right. We should screen everyone before we allow them to become citizens. Make sure we want them as part of our great country. Of course, I mean everyone, not just the immigrants, and those with discriminatory tendencies will be undesirable, and will have to move from the country.

    3. Shalom says:

      OMG agreed. Previous immigrants that came to America had to learn to read and write english and assimilate. Now they are force feeding us their culture and expecting us to change for them.

      As Bibi says – not happening.

    4. Greg Laden says:

      Glen, which Native American tribe are you a member of?

  3. tuna-free dolphin says:

    Islamophobia? Please. When Islamic radicals blow up your stuff and kill your people (over and over) you’d be a fool not to develop a healthy fear of your enemy. When Islam declares the west The Great Satan, then proceed to take us out, who’s got the irrational fear (phobia)?

    1. Auntie Venom says:

      I’m more concerned about Islamophilia than the phobia. Islamophiles are OK with and unwittingly encourage gender apartheid, mutilating women’s bodies and marrying girls off too young. Islamophiles are OK with statements that “we will bring down your rotten house (the US) from within”~Madhi Bray.
      Compare and contras;t the Philia, or the Phobia?

  4. Greg Laden says:

    Had the protesters been tebaggers or birthers, would WCCO have used the term “marred”?

    What was “marred” was democracy the say Chris Coleman and his police chief sat down with the Republicants and decided to make a show of busting heads during a political convention.

    Protests are part of democracy. Apparently, not everyone here loves democracy.

    1. Victim du Jour says:

      Only at the RNC, the Protesters were making bombs.

      Tea Party rallies are not violent like radical liberals, busting windows, throwing signs, and rocks.

    2. lib says:

      Thanks for pointing that out Greg, as soon as I read the headline, we are supposed to have sympathy for the AG and anger toward the protestors. However, if there are protesters against Bachman, they are lauded by cco.

  5. lib says:

    Why does cco continue to block my comments, with an error message stating “oh you’ve already said that”

  6. Citizen says:

    I find it hard to believe that Greenpeace and PETA are dangerous terrorists. Sounds like the government has branded them “domestic terrorists” because they are acting out against abuse of animals and the environment. FBI did the same thing to students during the 1960’s. Shameful….Protests are indeed part of democracy. Actually, protests are a responsibility of concerned citizens of a democracy.

    1. Guy says:

      Some parts of PETA certainly are. My wife used to work at the Cancer Research Center at the U of M. PETA members broke into, stole and released a bunch of animals from some of the labs. These animals probably died in the wild because they were not able to fend for themselves. This also pushed back the ongoing research by months to years & any deaths during that period who might have lived if a treatment were found (via that lost research) are directly on the PETA’s heads.

      They can PROTEST all they want … breaking & entering & theft are CRIMES. PERIOD.

    2. Victim Du Jour says:

      Animal Rights groups have fire bombed labs in the USA.

      Based on real news stories, liberals are far more violent than Tea Party people.

      All the assassinations and attempted assassinations on Presidents in the last century have been by liberal radicals.

      Yet the media and democrats claim the Tea Party has a problem with dangerous radicals.

      Are you sure these “Anti-War” Protesters are not linked to the Human Trafficking problem in the area by Somalian mafia?

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