Among the latest arrest reports from Hennepin County Jail this morning: Ali Douglas Newman, arrested Thursday night for trespassing and refusing police orders to leave the premises. Music lovers better know this suspect as Brother Ali, the rap veteran who regularly sells out First Avenue and has performed everywhere from the Coachella Music Fest to “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.” He was arrested at a south Minneapolis home that has been a hotbed of the Occupy Homes anti-foreclosure protests, a cause that Ali has vocally supported for almost a year. That support went beyond being vocal last night.
“I think there was a need for us to make this bold of a statement,” Ali said this morning. “People are fighting for justice and for dignity.”
The timing of the arrest had to do with a meeting Thursday at the foreclosing bank, PNC in Pittsburgh, which was visited by a few Occupy Homes leaders and the Cruz family, former owners of the house. Ali said they were “basically told by the bank’s PR person that there’s nothing they could do.” That prompted protests in at least a dozen other states, including the local protest. The Cruz house, at 4044 Cedar Av. S., is near Ali’s own home.
Thirteen protesters were arrested out of about 125 at the site Thursday night. Ali said he spent about seven hours in jail and was released on $50 bail. He is expected in court June 5. The rapper added, “Both the police and the protesters were so Minnesotan, in terms of how polite everyone was.”
Minneapolis police spokesman Bill Palmer said Ali and the 12 others were warned by police to not cross onto the property from the sidewalk and boulevard, where other protestors stood. "They all did so voluntarily, and were made aware of the consequences," he said, adding, "It was very peaceful."
This is the first time Ali has been arrested. A flagship rapper for the famed Rhymesayers Entertainment label, he became a Muslim when he was 15, a faith that he said helped improve his self-identity after years of feeling like an outcast due to being an albino. “The Muslim teachings I know tell you not to break laws,” he said, but in this case he consulted some spiritual leaders beforehand about the possibility of being arrested.
Ali believes his arrest for the protest is a continuation of work he did last summer on the Day of Dignity block party, which he organized outside his mosque in north Minneapolis, Masjid An-Nur (also U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison’s house of worship). The event offered free meals, health services, clothing and live music to north Minneapolis residents still reeling from the May 22, 2011, tornado. Like that event, he said of the Occupy Homes movement, "We're trying to restore dignity in our communities, especially the black and brown communities that have been hit the hardest."
Shortly after the Day of Dignity, Ali became active in the cause of North Side resident Monique White, whose home foreclosure instigated the Occupy Home movement. He was among protestors who met with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak in the spring. Ali proudly noted, “The Occupy Homes movement has won five cases so far, and in each case it was largely due to people coming together and raising their voice in protest. I know we can win this one, too.”
Here is a video of Ali's arrest, posted via Twitter by Occupy protester @MrNikoG: http://twitvid.com/A0XL4