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Reps say Somali and East African communities unfairly targeted in Capitol Hill crackdown

Responding to a letter first reported by CHS, representatives of Seattle’s Somali and East African communities have called on Mayor Ed Murray for “a [thorough] investigation” of a rash of robberies and street crime in the Pike/Pine neighborhood and asked the mayor to consider more than “the voice of just one group of citizens.”

“We hereby express our strong belief that these crimes are the work of a tiny number of misdirected youth, and fear they will result in the indiscriminate profiling law abiding Somali citizens of Seattle,” a portion of the letter reads. We have posted the full letter below. It was first posted here.

The early Sunday morning crowd still partying at Pike and Broadway the first weekend of new "emphasis patrols" in the area (Image: Tim Durkan with permission to CHS)

The early Sunday morning crowd still partying at Pike and Broadway the first weekend of new “emphasis patrols” in the area (Image: Tim Durkan with permission to CHS)

Yemane Gebremicael, president of African Diaspora of Washington, and Hassan Diis, identified as an East African community activist, also allege that Capitol Hill businesses are discriminating against “Somali community members and students.”

“Capitol Hill business owners are targeting the Somali community, and are using their disproportionate power and money to influence local officials,” they write. “We’ve also heard reports that they’re refusing to serve the Somali community members and students who study and work around that neighborhood.”

In a CHS article about his new marijuana-related business venture, Lost Lake co-owner Dave Meinert responded to a question about whether his businesses were refusing service to Somalis, denying the allegation. Meinert’s Comet Tavern is a CHS advertiser.

Early this month, CHS posted a letter from Neumos and Lost Lake partner Jason Lajeunesse in which he described an attack inside his 10th Ave business and how a “gang” has been terrorizing Capitol Hill:

Dear Mr Mayor, photoI’m writing this email on behalf of the capitol hill neighborhood, local business owners, my friends who have been jumped, my patrons who are threatened and abused, my employees who have been assaulted, the residents and the women of the neighborhood who are being harassed and threatened daily. 

I’m writing to plead with you Mr Mayor, that something be done about the gang (usually described as Somali) that is ever present on Capitol Hill. It’s disheartening to me that these guys have been terrorizing our neighborhood for well over a year, maybe 2 years and this CONTINUES to go on. SOMONE IS GOING TO GET RAPED OR KILLED and SPD AND MAYORS OFFICE WILL BE TO BLAME.

Incidents have been exploding lately, day and night. We just had an assault INSIDE the restaurant (Lost Lake) on Saturday, AT BRUNCH? This is just ONE of many many many incidents. Below is a text from a concerned friend, neighbor, business owner who reached out to me today about an incident LAST NIGHT.

I don’t know who all should be on this thread, but I’ve cc’d people I know have a vested interest in this community.

We should be very afraid for the safety of those we care about, our neighbors and those who continue to be victimized at this point. It’s only getting worse. It’s clear that these guys have no fear of reprimand. It’s clear they see mayor’s office and spd standing by doing nothing as they terrorize our neighborhood.

Mr. Mayor, How long are you going to let this persist? What is the plan of action? Is there a plan of action? How can we help you help us?

Jason Lajeunesse, concerned neighbor.

(CHS has removed first names from the image included in the letter)

Only days later, SPD held a community meeting at 12th and Pine’s East Precinct headquarters to announce data-driven emphasis patrols and the assignment of gang units to the area to help quell a reported spike in street crime. CHS talked with SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole about her short and long-term strategies for the neighborhood as she took part in the first weekend of increased patrols.

Screen-Shot-2014-09-09-at-2.30.09-PM-600x377

September totals through Monday the 8th

The crackdown appears to have quieted things somewhat in the area. CHS has reported on a handful of street robberies since the emphasis patrols began earlier this month but the activity is far below the record pace tallied in August.

And there have been no robberies as brazen as this late-August hold-up of a DJ at gunpoint outside the Odd Fellow building or this August 1st Cal Anderson robbery in which one victim was grazed in the head by gunfire.

UPDATE: A strong-arm robbery reported inside the park just before 2 AM Monday is somewhat indicative of the less serious crimes currently seen around Cal Anderson. In this morning’s late night case, SPD was called to the basketball courts for the report that a group of four or five teens had assaulted their victim and robbed him before running from the park. The target in the crime? The victim told police that one of the males in the group wearing a gray sweatsuit had robbed him of his basketball. There were no immediate arrests.

Last week, a reported armed robbery in the park turned out to be a pistol-packed argument between two men over shared marijuana.

East Precinct has asked for Cal Anderson’s lights to be left on until after last call on weekends while commander Capt. Pierre Davis last week told the community council that the emphasis and foot patrols in the area would continue.

Chief O’Toole is scheduled to appear at Thursday’s September meeting of the East Precinct Advisory Council, 6:30 PM in Seattle U’s Chardin Hall.

Below is the full letter first reported by the Seattle Globalist:

Dear Mr. Mayor,

We are writing on behalf of the East African and Somali communities in Seattle. We have been informed that your office has received a complaint email from a Capitol Hill business owner and from others in the neighborhood.

We are very sorry to hear this news. As East African community members we are more than prepared to collaborate with your office and the police department to look into these allegations of criminal activity by members of our community and work with all parties involved in this matter as soon we can.

We, the community members, disapprove of the allegations. We feel saddened by the generalization that the youth gang had the appearance of Somali ethnicity. We are a very peaceful and friendly community. The news of the allegations raised major concerns among us. We have already had our fair share of problems, but these new accusations are unreasonable, and unsubstantiated.

As a community, we are dismayed by charges that our youth are involved in activities such as nightclubbing, drinking, terrorizing, gambling and prostitution. We teach our youth and children to stay away from all the above practices. We are traditionally a very conservative community who are principally against such offenses. It is our obligation to respect our neighborhood.

Our communities are residing around Yesler Terrace and the surrounding areas of the Capitol Hill, and we have a large number of students who study at Seattle Central Community College and Seattle University. We also have a large number of taxi drivers and Uber drivers who serve all the above-mentioned communities, but mainly work around Capitol Hill.

We’ve heard that there have been a number of robberies that took place in the Capitol Hill area, and that the police have stepped up patrols in the area in response. In his complaint letter to you, the Capitol Hill business owner generalized that the perpetrators of these crimes are Somali. We hereby express our strong belief that these crimes are the work of a tiny number of misdirected youth, and fear they will result in the indiscriminate profiling law abiding Somali citizens of Seattle.

Capitol Hill business owners are targeting the Somali community, and are using their disproportionate power and money to influence local officials. We’ve also heard reports that they’re refusing to serve the Somali community members and students who study and work around that neighborhood.

We sincerely believe that the Mayor’s Office and the Seattle Police Department will conduct a though investigation and will not consider the voice of just one group of citizens and bend to their wishes, at the expense of another.

As representatives of the Somali and East African communities, we want to make clear our willingness to collaborate and work through these issues as one community.

Sincerely,

Yemane Gebremicael
President, African Diaspora of Washington

Hassan Diis
East African Community Activist

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31 thoughts on “Reps say Somali and East African communities unfairly targeted in Capitol Hill crackdown

  1. What a ridiculous letter.

    The gang of kids committing these attacks are East African. EVERYONE with any knowledge of the situation knows this. Are they solely responsible for all the crime in the neighborhood? No, and no one said they are. But the organized gang that are stealing cell phones, harassing women, selling drugs, and mugging people are East African.

    No one is suggesting the cops target East Africans. To suggest that the request to make the neighborhood safe is racist and that this gang is not East African is the East African community putting their heads in the sand. The community is “conservative” so that means their kids couldn’t be committing these crimes? What a joke. What the East African leaders should do is realize what is happening and help work on stopping it. Instead, they come out and attack small business owners worried about the safety of their customers and staff?

    How about this – CHS should list the names of all of the people arrested by the SPD in Pike/ Pine over the last week and let’s find out where they are from. Bottom line, it doesn’t matter where they are from, it matters the SPD puts foot patrols on the beat in the neighborhood and starts arresting and prosecuting all criminals, in hopes this neighborhood becomes safe to walk around in.

    • Well I definitely agree with your last statement: It doesn’t matter where they’re from.

      I lost a lot of respect for Mr. Lajeunesse when I saw that he went out of his way to call out such a specific community in his letter. To anybody reading, Mr. Lajeunesee (and these commenters) do not speak for all of us on Capitol Hill, and I am embarrassed and ashamed such a public finger was pointed by a member of the Capitol Hill community.

      • Strictly speaking (splitting hairs), there wasn’t any “generalization that the youth gang had the appearance of Somali ethnicity”. HE didn’t say they’re Somali. He said “usually described as Somali”. In several reports here on CHS, witnesses HAVE speculated the perps were Somali. In one of those cases, wasn’t it another East African person making that statement based on their familiarity with regional accents? I can understand the defensiveness but I think they’re getting a bit ahead of themselves here, I didn’t see any suggestions SPD employ racial profiling.

      • It’s not going “out of his way” to tell the truth. If you find simple honesty as finger pointing or a big inconvenience then you’re just a liar. No?

    • I am a Somali ethnic and has been living in Capitol Hill for almost a decade. I call it home. I am also part of the LGBT community and it never crossed my mind to leave the hill. It’s very disturbing.
      To make this short: a bandit is a bandit regardless of his ethnicity and there should be a strong police response to any kind of crime.
      I consider Cap hill as very safe neighborhood and it should stay that way.

    • If a small, distinctive group of people is truly causing so much of the trouble, why don’t some of the folks who see this (bouncers? regulars?) film them acting sketchy? If a bunch of people did this, and folks could post multiple examples of this group of people bothering people or assaulting people, then maybe everyone would have to admit what is going on and actually address it. And possibly some people from the community could then help identify the people rather than try to deny that this is happening.

    • That is just rhetoric on your part. What does ” going out of his way” mean to you? He went out of his way to not be perceived as being racist for noticing the obvious ethnicity. That is all. Just falling victim to you and the PC police,

  2. My partner and I were robbed by East Africans earlier this summer near Cal Anderson. Two of them spoke Arabic. We could only report on “what” they were as we did not know “who” they were. Race is an identifying label. To put on the police report anything other than what we witnessed would not be helpful in assisting police with apprehending these young men.
    Yes, we are certain that they were East African. My partner has spent considerable time there on charitable missions. I speak Arabic.
    Are these young men responsible for all of the crime on Capitol Hill? Unlikely. I can only speak of my experience and do indeed hope that the police are actively looking for the East African men who robbed us.

  3. I notice that the letter from the two Somali community leaders does not deny that the “misdirected youth” are in fact Somali. Of course they are not responsible for all of the recent crimes, but they are certainly disproportionately represented.

    An average person, including myself, would not be able to accurately distinguish a Somali from an Ethiopean/Eritrean. Therefore, I think it best that they are described as “East African.”

    • I Can distinguish between the 2. I am a Somali and live on the hill. I see them all the time harassing passerbys, shoplifting, shouting gay slurs,etc.
      For such a small community there are hell of a lot of them causing these crimes on the hill. I don’t see discrimination here, only thing I see is SPD not stepping up to do their job.

  4. I am a Somali guy living on the hill. I not only see them harassing people on the street, but I have also witnessed them shop lifting from the QFC on Broadway. Misdirected youth my behind.
    Maybe you should keep your “misdirected youth” in check before making any assumptions.
    Saying you are a conservative community dosent excuse you from sending your gay hating robbers to peoples backyard.
    And yes I know that all the cab drivers and Lyft or Uber drivers on the hill know who these thugs are, but don’t want to do anything about it. Flush them out or shut the hell up.

    BTW some of the comments I read on the Somali website is here:

    ( It’s very sad that gays and lesbians are telling us that we are not welcomed in Capital Hill. It should be the other way around and we should be the ones boycotting their businesses and all Capital Hill. What good is going on in Capital Hill and who want to go there anyway ? There are bunch of gays and lesbians (qoomuluudh). A Somalia person is not going to miss anything for not going to those sick people and neighborhood. Sorry, we will only miss their nasty behavior which we don’t want to learn anyway.Stay away from those sick people guys.)

  5. What I would love to see is the Somali community come out at night and redirect these youth to more productive pastimes, these kids are just doing what kids do from Rio to Moscow, if left unsupervised in a world with no opportunity. I can confirm, there is a evil presence at night in that area, mostly consisting of crystal dealers and their clients.

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  7. Addressing a common occurrence that lies within a specific cultural group that’s not acceptable in the culture they are imposing it on is not being a racist.
    Political correctness in not wanting to sound like a racist is only exacerbating this problem and giving the newly arrived culture a free hand while the home culture loses and continues to suffer.
    Somalia itself is a land of ongoing gang bloodshed, reckless behavior, thievery, and murder. Somalia has not had a functioning government in two decades. Perhaps these youths are practicing the only type of life they’ve ever known in Seattle
    Somalians are also Muslims in which many of them, particularly its youth are inspired by radical Islam. Radical Islam pays no respect to non-Muslims (infidels) and pays no concern to crimes committed against them by Muslims. They also view homosexuality as evil and punishable by death due to their endorsement of Sharia (Islamic Law), which also opposes democracy and free speech.
    I fear that Seattle may be seeing the birth of what has blossomed in pretty much all major European cities, a rising Islamic population looking to impose Sharia, deny free speech, subordinate women, destroy the gay community, and take control of where they settle.
    Anyone who denies this just need take a look at Europe today and what will eventually happen here.

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