Arrest made after Minneapolis East African businesses hit by vandalism

A surveillance video from the vandalized stores shows a man wearing a black tank top throwing rocks at the glass windows of East African-owned stores in Minneapolis.
Several East African-owned stores on a stretch of Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis were vandalized on Sept. 18, 2019. Mukhtar M. Ibrahim | Sahan Journal

Several East African-owned stores on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis were vandalized early Wednesday night, rattling Muslim business owners.


A surveillance video from one of the vandalized stores shows a man wearing a black tank top throwing rocks at the glass windows of $5 Pizza at Franklin Avenue and 2nd Avenue South.


Minneapolis police had a man in custody by Thursday afternoon. Sahan Journal typically does not name suspects until they are charged.


“He did not come here to steal. The motive of the guy was to cause harm,” Bashir Egal, who owns the pizza store, said Wednesday night


The store’s glass windows were damaged, and Bashir estimates it would cost about $5,000 to fix them. 

About 30 minutes later, the same man is seen on a surveillance video throwing rocks at the glass windows of Seward Market & Halal Meat at Franklin Avenue and 25th Avenue South, about two miles east of $5 Dollar Pizza.


“This brings fear,” said Salah Mohamed, who runs the halal market. “It’s adding up.”


“We’re very worried,” said Shamsudin Hassan, who owns a grocery store nearby. “This is the biggest East African-owned [collection of stores]. This is our shopping center. We don’t feel safe.”


The halal market’s doors and windows were not damaged.


But Abdirahman Awad wasn’t so lucky. His business, Capitol Cafe, appeared to have the most extensive damage.


When he arrived at the cafe Wednesday around 7 a.m., Abdirahman noticed shards of glass on the pavement. He looked up and saw two of the cafe’s glass windows were broken.


“I was shocked,” he said. “It looked like a car accident.”   


The Minneapolis Police Department is investigating the incident.


Word of the vandalism quickly spread in the East African community, who are mostly Oromos and Somalis. 


Abdirahman said customers were afraid to come to the cafe and he lost half of his business for the day. A typically buzzing cafe was almost empty when a Sahan Journal reporter visited the cafe on Wednesday evening.


Abdirahman said it would cost about $6,000 to fix both windows. With only plastic covering the windows, he’s afraid someone might steal everything in the cafe if they’re not fixed soon.


“The scariest thing is, what should I do tonight?” Abdirahman said.


Mustafa Ibro works at Barber & Braiding adjacent to Capital Cafe, and said he’s worried something worse might happen next time.


“We’re the lucky ones,” he said, because the barbershop did not sustain any damage. “This hateful thing that’s going on is dangerous.”


Samiya Mohammed, one of the owners of Tobacco Plus which was slightly damaged, said this wasn’t the first time her business was vandalized. 


She installed metal bars behind the glass windows after her store was broken into three other times in the last two years.


“We don’t know who’s doing this,” Samiya said. “I don’t know what they are trying to get out of it. They inconvenience us. They cost us money.”

Mukhtar M. Ibrahim is the founder, editor and executive director of Sahan Journal, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to chronicling the struggles, successes and transformations of Minnesota’s immigrant and refugee communities.


He previously worked as a staff writer for the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio News. He has also written for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Al Jazeera English, BuzzFeed News and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.


Mukhtar is among the first of his generation’s professional, accomplished journalists of Somali background in Minnesota and in the country. His leadership has been recognized with many awards and accomplishments and is sought-after speaker and panelist at leading institutions, organizations and conferences around the United States.

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