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Minneapolis City Council Member Michael Rainville is facing an avalanche of criticism after he blamed primarily Somali youth for a wave of violence on July 4 that included a shooting at a large gathering at Boom Island Park and others launching fireworks toward cars and buildings while driving on downtown streets.
Rainville later issued an apology after backlash bubbled up on social media, a day after he said during a community meeting about public safety that he planned to talk to Somali elders and tell them “their children can no longer have that type of behavior.”
“I want to address a comment I made earlier today and apologize,” Rainville said in a statement. “I was trying to convey that we need more support for our youth. But the fact is what I said and the way I said it was not appropriate and singled out Somali youth. I recognize and acknowledge the hurt and anger my statement caused. I am sorry.”
But during a “Take Back the Street” rally on Saturday night, Rainville addressed a crowd that included interim Minneapolis Police Chief Amelia Huffman.
“We are being filmed by people who don’t understand living in the violent atmosphere you have,” he said. “Be aware of what you say and who you say it to.”
That comment caused Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, to question the sincerity of Rainville’s apology.
“We are pretty disappointed; the initial apology may not be as genuine as we had hoped,” Hussein said in an interview Sunday. “We are not satisfied with the apology as it stands today. He can’t double down and just say it was a simple misunderstanding.”
Hussein said Rainville’s comments were false and finger-pointing.
In an interview on Sunday evening, Rainville admitted he put his foot in his mouth but said he wants to curb the violence and has turned to Somali leaders to seek advice on how to get youths involved in constructive activities.
“I ran [for City Council] to help everybody,” including the Somali residents in the Mill District and in northeast Minneapolis. “I’ve been asking, ‘What can I do to help?'”
Rainville also said he attended an Eid al-Adha celebration in northeast Minneapolis on Saturday and apologized to 2,000 members of the Dar Al-Qalam mosque. And, he said, they forgave him.
Three of Rainville’s fellow City Council members issued a statement Friday night calling the Ward 3 council member’s words “inappropriate, incorrect and disturbing.”
In their statement, council members Jamal Osman, Jeremiah Ellison, and Aisha Chughtai called for Rainville to make a formal apology and hold a community meeting to allow community members to share how his comments affected them.
The Somali Student Association at the University of Minnesota also condemned Rainville’s comments, calling his words “hurtful” and “disrespectful.”
“He chose to single out the Somali community for the despicable behaviors that took place over the 4th of July,” part of the statement said. “These comments do nothing in the way to make our communities safe, but create a scapegoat and build on stereotypes that lead to over-policing and dehumanization.”
Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation President Samantha Pree-Stinson said Sunday in a Facebook post that she has filed an an ethics complaint against Rainville.
The flap arose after mass shooting at Boom Island Park along the Mississippi River as hundreds were celebrating July 4. More than 100 gunshots rang out, and seven people were taken to a hospital, according to officials. About the same time, cars were seen racing down streets in the Mill District, with those inside and others on the street shooting fireworks toward cars, buildings and people.
Another chaotic scene unfolded July 4 in northeast Minneapolis, where people aimed fireworks at buildings as street racers did doughnuts in the streets.
In response to the holiday violence, the State Patrol assigned 20 extra troopers and deployed its aviation unit to crack down on street racing and gun-related and other violent crimes this weekend.
Rainville said he held the community meeting Friday to talk about the recent violence after constituents raised legitimate concerns, he said.
Hussein said there is a lot of work that needs to be done to improve public safety, but Rainville’s comments are false, dehumanizing and “problematic.”