Approximately 100 Cedar-Riverside residents rallied last night in front of North Country Co-op to protest Wednesday morning’s raid of neighborhood businesses by federal law enforcement agents.
Agents seized computers, boxes and files from Global Services at 1929 Fifth St. S. and Amal Express at 1806 Riverside Ave. The businesses are suspected of having
connections to the Al-Barakaat financial network. President George W. Bush accused that firm, and another, al-Taqua Management Group, of supporting the al-Qaida organization.
Members of the Somali community spoke out at the vigil to express concern and frustration with the raids, which they say cut off a vital economic resource for family members in East Africa.
“This is a matter of life and death,” said Jamal Omar of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center.
“People use these businesses to wire money to their families who are living in refugee camps,” Omar said. “These people are in desperate need of food and shelter.”
Guled Abdir-Haman came from Somalia five years ago to help support his parents and his 16 brothers and sisters living in Somalia.
“I had to call my father yesterday and tell him I can’t send money any more,” Abdir-Haman said. “He was shocked because they all rely on the little bit of money I send.”
He said that because of political and economic turmoil in Somalia, he has few ways to help his family.
“I have a TCF bank account, but that can’t help me send money home,” Abdir-Haman said. He said that he would support the closings if the businesses were linked to terrorism, but he thinks some type of alternative should be put in place to allow people to send money.
Community organizer Mahamoud Wadere said Wednesday’s raids caused a large amount of fear and insecurity in the Somali community.
“People are looking around
wondering what is going to happen next,” Wadere said. “People are wondering if the government is going to start putting people in internment camps, like they did the Japanese.”
Comparing the current situation with that of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Omar quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”