Four U student groups protest Dinkytown store’s closing

Courtney Lewis

Losing a tobacco distributor isn’t the most important concern for Erika Zurawski.

As one of the 30-plus people protesting Friday the closing of the Dinkytown Tobacco Shop, she said she is angered by “the persecution of civil liberties.”

Zurawski is a Students for Justice in Palestine member, one of four groups who organized the afternoon protest. Students Against War, Socialist Alternative and the Anti-War Committee also gathered in front of the shop at 403 14th Ave. S.E., to voice concern about what they saw as “racial profiling” when the store owner was evicted.

While serving the eviction papers last Tuesday, Hennepin County Sheriff deputies called in the FBI.

Nizar Alsadi, owner of the Dinkytown Tobacco Shop, said his landlord asked him to remove the Palestinian newspaper clippings posted in the window.

Officials from the company who leased Alsadi the space said he owes approximately $3,000 in back rent and was evicted for nonpayment.

An FBI official has said it is common practice for special agents to be called up to investigate potential hate crimes.

“If he had any other kind of literature in his window, the raid would never have happened,” Zurawski said. “This is our First Amendment right and we want to protect it.”

Kevin Kautzman, a College of Liberal Arts senior, has worked in Dinkytown for three years. He said the reason for the shop closing disturbed him.

“That really is the message, isn’t it?” Kautzman said. “If you oppose the state or federal government, then you’re a threat.”

Kautzman said he has spoken with other employees in the area who approved of Alsadi’s messages.

“He’s trying to educate people, and I give him props for what he does,” Kautzman said. “It’s important.”

Nathan Paulsen, a Anti-War Committee member, said the shop’s closing could have a chilling effect on neighboring businesses.

“This is not acceptable on our campus or in our neighborhood,” Paulsen said.

He said his group joined the protest to make a statement against “racial profiling.”

Paul Stoetzel heard of the protest and came to support the message.

As a solider in the National Guard and Students Against War member, he said he witnessed the military’s abuse of power while stationed in Korea.

“That’s part of what brought me here,” Stoetzel said. “It scares me that by just putting up pro-Palestinian literature, you can have the FBI raid your property.”

Stoetzel said he hopes the protest will show people that there are more angles to every story.

Alsadi said he was pleased with the turnout and the support from his community.

“I love it,” he said. “It’s great.”