A group of Cedar-Riverside youth marched through their neighborhood’s streets late Tuesday afternoon to demonstrate against terrorism, the stereotyping of Muslims and what they said was a lack of community resources.
Wielding signs and chanting “power to the youth,” the protesters, led by the Cedar Riverside Youth Council, said the lack of opportunities and resources for local young people was due to foreign terrorist organizations’ recruitment of residents in the area.
“Our real problems are community development,” said Mubashir Jeilani, who co-founded CRYC with general director Mohamed Jama. “We have so many different organizations claiming that they help our youth, but … they don’t help us.”
In recent months, Cedar-Riverside has been the focus of investigations and efforts to stop extremist terrorist groups like the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and al-Shabaab from enlisting locals to join them overseas.
While Tuesday’s protesters condemned terrorism, Jeilani said the larger issue the community faces is a lack of services, jobs and support.
Aman Obsiye, a University of Minnesota alumnus, said he joined the protest because he believes recent “provocative headlines” have overemphasized terrorist recruitment from the local community.
“Every subgroup has bad apples,” Obsiye told the crowd, adding that in other cases, that same lack of opportunities drives young people into gangs or narcotics use. “The real question that needs to be asked is ‘Why are they leaving?’”
The demonstration outside of the Brian Coyle Center grew from a couple dozen to about 50 people when Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, joined her constituents and echoed their concern for the neighborhood’s young residents.
“People who join a [terrorist] group like that are doing it because of discontent,” she said. “We want [them] to feel they have an opportunity here to do good.”
Shortly after Kahn and other community leaders addressed the crowd, about 25 marchers left the gathering to walk along Washington Avenue and Cedar Avenue. Along the way, they criticized Pillsbury United Communities and its network of neighborhood centers, which includes the Brian Coyle Center.
PUC President Chanda Baker said that despite the demonstrators’ calls for increased financial support for the neighborhood’s youth, the community organization itself does not allocate funds.
“It just feels kind of weirdly placed for the protest to be on our grounds where we’re serving the community and have no funding to offer,” she said.
But Baker said she acknowledges more should be done for Cedar-Riverside.
“I’m not in disagreement that there needs to be more thought put into how we serve the community in a very dense area better,” she said.