A week ago, conservative writer Matt Vespa wrote,
There’s media silence in Minneapolis over an attack executed by a group of Somali teens that reportedly attacked bystanders East Bank Light Rail station last Friday. It looks like it was racially motivated. According to reports, anyone who was white or looked like they had money was targeted. The teens used hammers and bars as weapons. … [T]here’s been literally no media coverage of this attack. The only outlet to even mention or ask about it was the crime watch site “2ndPrecinct Minneapolis Crime Watch and Information. They posted on their Facebook page to note that this attack did happen and that “We were told that we were the ONLY media to inquire to MPD about it. Further proof of our “incurious” local lamestream media”
Several conservative sites, including the frequently dubious Red State and the Granddaddy of Them All, Instapundit, passed on the story in the same vein, hinting darkly that the news media was burying this story because it evoked Muslim-on-white “hate crime”, and because the Left is circling the wagons around besieged Somali immigrant, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
The episode began with a police call, in a police dispatcher states:
“[University of Minnesota Police Department] is asking for assistance from Metro Transit [Police] and Minneapolis [Police] for a group of eight to 10 males at the East Bank light rail station chasing people around with hammers. They do have some people injured. They’re sending us more information, but they’re requesting assistance.”
The rest of the story seems to have been based on an alleged eye-witness report posted on Facebook by“Jay Hall,” who wrote “… It was a group of Somali young males with hammers and bars. They were attacking anyone who looked like they had money or were white.”
However, by the time the episode had played out, police were describing it like this in the report on the incident,:
Around 9.45 p.m. on Saturday 17 May, UMN police officers were dispatched to the East Bank train station on Washington Avenue Southeast, next to the University of Minnesota, after receiving reports of a group of Somali youths with weapons.
Officer Amanda Carlson:
“Upon arrival to the East Bank LRT I saw a group of Somali juveniles running away from officers traveling westbound on Washington Ave SE and turn southbound between Moos Tower and [the] Molecular and Cellular Biology building. I ran after them and heard officers yelling at the juveniles to stop. I turned onto Delaware St SE where officers had several Somali juveniles lying prone with their arms spread out. I placed a male….in handcuffs and performed a search incident to arrest. All other parties were placed in handcuffs and detained by other officers that had arrived on scene…Through further investigation, it was found that …[they were] the two individuals brandishing metal pipes towards others on the light rail platform. Dispatch sent recorded images of the incident on the East Bank LTR which showed [them] holding a metal pipe and handing it to [each other] [They] were placed in the rear of a squad car and transported to UMPD by Officer Brackett….All other parties that had fled on foot and were detained were ultimately released from police custody at the scene. I issued a citation … for disorderly conduct as he engaged in offensive, abusive, boisterous and noisy conduct tending to arouse alarm, flee police as he attempted to evade or elude peace officers, who were acting in the lawful discharge of official duty, by means of running, and false information to police as he provided a fictitious name and false date of birth.”
Carlson further wrote that two metal pipes were taken from the two young men who received the citations.
“I aired to dispatch I had nine people proned out on the ground … As other officers began arriving at the turnaround I performed a more accurate count of the number of individuals laying on the ground and observed there to be seven Somali males lying on the ground. I aired this updated information to dispatch that there were seven people proned out on the ground. I was standing over two of the males and had observed the five other people had been placed in handcuffs. I then placed handcuffs on each of the two males I was standing over and informed both of them they were under arrest for fleeing from police on foot … Once all seven males had been placed in handcuffs, officers began identifying the seven Somali males and further investigation began to determine who had been brandishing weapons on the light rail platform …”
UMN police cited two juvenile males on suspicion of disorderly conduct and fleeing a police officer on foot. One of the two was cited on suspicion of providing a police officer with a false name. All of the alleged crimes are misdemeanors. The investigation is closed.
What’s going on here? I have no idea. It appears that there were no hammers, no attacks targeting whites, and no injuries. It also appears that there were enough Somali teens involved to be credibly called a gang, and if they weren’t brandishing hammers, they were holding metal pipes.
The “news source” that seemed to do the best job unraveling fact from rumor was Snopes, which will always rush to dispute right-wing news sources and blogs. Since the site’s bias is palpable, I don’t trust it, and no one should. But who do you trust here? The “Somalis running around attacking whites with hammers” story sounds like something newsworthy, but it was championed by disreputable sites like “InfoWars,” making the story inherently unbelievable. Are the ultimate misdemeanor charges newsworthy? Of course not. Do I have faith that campus police in Minnesota wouldn’t soft-pedal a potentially explosive story about black Muslim teens attacking people?
The right wing blogs want to believe the worst, so confirmation bias is at play. They can’t be trusted. Is it credible that mainstream media sources would bury a story that supports conservative tropes about “ungrateful,” anti-American Somali immigrants, like Rep. Omar? We know it is. Do we know which position Snopes will work overtime to support? We know that too.
The conclusion is that there is no way to know what happened, or even if anything happened that we care to know about. Such is the state of journalism today, in an environment where partisan leverage is considered more important than transparency and truth.