When Brother Ali makes a rare trip to downtown Minneapolis, it's often for another sold-out show at First Avenue. Thursday evening, though, the hip-hop star was brought there by police as one of 13 people arrested at an Occupy Homes protest in south Minneapolis.
Ali Newman, 34, went to Hennepin County Jail for trespassing and refusing police orders to leave the premises. The rapper -- who has performed everywhere from "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" to the giant Coachella fest -- has been active in Occupy's anti-foreclosure movement for months.
"I think there was a need for us to make this bold of a statement," he said Friday. "People are fighting for justice and for dignity."
Thirteen protesters were arrested out of about 125 at the site. It was one of at least a dozen protests nationwide, timed to a meeting at PNC Bank in Pittsburgh. Occupy leaders blame a PNC computer glitch for leading to the foreclosure of the former Cruz family home at 4044 Cedar Av. S.
Minneapolis police spokesman Bill Palmer said Ali and the 12 others were warned not to cross onto the property from the sidewalk and boulevard, where other protesters stood. "They all did so voluntarily, and were made aware of the consequences," he said. "It was very peaceful."
Ali lives near the house. "Both the police and the protesters were so Minnesotan, in terms of how polite everyone was," he said.
Dozens of officers were on hand for Thursday's arrests, which included two more earlier in the day. Last week, Police Chief Tim Dolan estimated that policing earlier protests at the house had cost more than $42,000.
This was a first-time arrest for the rapper, who has been active in several community causes. He organized a block party last summer at Masjid An-Nur, the North Side mosque where he and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison worship, offering help to tornado victims in north Minneapolis, where he spent his teenage years.
Ali became a Muslim at age 15 to lessen the outcast status he felt as an albino. "The Muslim teachings I know tell you not to break laws," he said, so he consulted spiritual leaders beforehand about the possibility of being arrested. He said he spent about seven hours in jail. He was released on $50 bail and is due in court July 5.
Chris Riemenschneider 612-673-4658