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Arrest made after Minneapolis East African businesses hit by vandalism

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Storefront glass is shattered on a few window panes on Franklin Avenue.
Several East African-owned stores on a stretch of Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis were vandalized on Sept. 18, 2019.
Mukhtar M. Ibrahim | Sahan Journal

This story comes to you from Sahan Journal, a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to providing authentic news reporting about Minnesota's new immigrants and refugees. MPR News is a partner with Sahan Journal and will be sharing stories between SahanJournal.com and MPRNews.org.

Updated: 3:30 p.m.

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. MPR News 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. Egal estimated 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 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., Awad 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.”

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

Awad 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.

Awad 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?” he 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,” Mohammed said. “I don’t know what they are trying to get out of it. They inconvenience us. They cost us money.”