Somali Gangs Battle in Minneapolis; Somalis Demand That Cops Do Something
Let's start by stipulating that not every newcomer to America is a violent criminal bringing old ethnic and religious conflicts to the New World; nor is he a predatory opportunist, happy to take advantage of the stable, trusting, and yes, welcoming culture he finds. Every country has its social customs and unwritten rules, and often newcomers misinterpret them as weakness.
When the Catholic Irish arrived in large number from the middle of the 19th century on, they brought with them a deep suspicion of the police, a distrust of the Protestant ascendancy, and a pent-up willingness to work the system to their advantage -- cultural survival skills they had learned during nearly a millennium of English occupation of their home country. It took them more than a full century to fully integrate into American society. Swaths of American cities, especially New York, had Irish no-go zones, into which even the Irish cops feared to tread, and even today we remember the names of the psychopath Mad Dog Coll and the suave but violent Owney Madden, chief of the Gopher Gang, who gave the world Mae West, Primo Carnera, the Cotton Club and Bill Clinton.
Similarly, the immigrant Jews from Russia and the Pale went through a short but violent gangster period (Monk Eastman, Lepke, Meyer Lansky, Benny Siegel), culminating, along with newly arrived Italians, as the triggermen for Murder, Inc. And the Sicilian contribution to urban mayhem has been well documented in print, stage, and screen.
That's largely in the past now: nobody fears a pack of Irish boys, unless they're drunk and it's St. Patrick's Day in Manhattan, or the Jewish kids studying at the yeshiva, or the Italian lawyers, chefs, and movie directors. But neither were any of these groups particularly welcomed upon arrival; instead, they were seen as cannon fodder for the Civil War, merchants, laborers, and settlers as America pushed west toward its Manifest Destiny.
Which brings us to Little Mogadishu, in the city soon to be formerly known as Minneapolis, where the good people of Minnesota -- of Scandinavian, German, and Irish stock -- have been busily importing people from perhaps the most culturally alien region of the world, Muslim East Africa, whose charming natives are unlikely to follow the traditional immigrant path outlined above. In Charles Dickens's masterpiece, Bleak House, Mrs. Jellyby ignores her own brood while busily organizing aid to Africa; today's Mrs. Jellybys have instead have brought East Africa to them.
East African community reeling from weekend violence, demands solutionsA group of Somali volunteers including Abdirahman Mukhtar, left, and Abdullahi Farah gave out pizza and tea to young people from a stand Friday in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.The men hope by connecting with youth and engaging them in conversation they can combat the shootings that have recently plagued the neighborhood. After the latest spasm of gang violence, Minneapolis' Somali residents and business owners on Monday stepped up their calls for help from City Hall and police headquarters to help curb the senseless shootings that they say too often go overlooked. On Friday alone, five men of Somali descent were shot in separate attacks, one fatally.
Police and community members pinned the blame for the bloodshed on an ongoing feud between Cedar-Riverside neighborhood gangs like 1627 and Madhiban With Attitude (MWA) and their rivals, the Somali Outlaws, whose territory includes the area around Karmel Mall. Friday's shootings were a repeat of a familiar pattern: a shooting on one gang's turf is usually followed hours, if not minutes later by an "eye-for-an-eye" response so as not to appear weak, community members say. Two shootings last month are also blamed on the conflict. As with other recent shootings, police immediately stepped up patrols in both neighborhoods to prevent further retaliation. But some in the community wondered whether they could be doing more.
What more, one wonders, can they do? If a bunch of white cops come pouring into Little Mogadishu, both coasts will be able to hear the howls unaided. Should they do nothing, then the likelihood is that the neighborhood -- represented by the ineffable Ilhan Omar in the United States Congress -- may well descend into the levels of violence that characterize, well, Mogadishu. Meanwhile, the media's Complaint Department is open for business: