Legislators at the rally vowed to continue the fight to restore what is a lifeline for many in the war-torn nation.
The Somali community joined for a rally in front of the State Capitol on Friday . Somali American Money Services Association (SAMSA) called a rally at the State Capitol of Minnesota to ask banks restore relations with the companies wiring money to millions of Somali refugees, displaced and famine affected in the Horn of Africa.
For the second time since money-wiring services to East Africa were suspended in Minnesota last week, a large crowd of Somali-Americans rallied Friday to call on banks to restore relations with the money transfer businesses.
The businesses are used by countless Minnesota Somalis to send money to family members in Somalia. Many living in the war-ravaged nation have no other source of income.
The protest, organized by the Somali American Money Services Association, which represents the money-wiring businesses, took place in front of the State Capitol in St. Paul.
"Today, we are here to defend a moral cause," Abdulwahid Qalinle, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, told the 300-strong crowd. "We are here to defend the rights of American citizens to be able to sustain their loved ones in the Horn of Africa."
Other speakers included state Reps. Karen Clark and Jeff Hayden and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison. Clark said she and Hayden will introduce legislation when the Legislature convenes later this month. She said the resolution will call on Minnesota banks to change their policies of not doing business with the money service businesses.
Years ago, several banks had accounts with the Somali-owned money service businesses, also known as hawalas. But they pulled their support after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, amid increased federal regulation designed to combat the flow of money overseas to terrorists.
Only one banking company -- Sunrise Community Banks -- remained in business with the hawalas. Sunrise closed its accounts with the hawalas on Dec. 30, citing liability concerns due to the regulations.
The account closures have led the money transfer operators to suspend their wiring services, leaving many Minnesota Somalis panicked about how to get money to their loved ones.
To protest Minnesota banks' lack of support, 21 Somali-Americans with Wells Fargo banking accounts showed up at their local branch office on East Franklin Avenue on Thursday and closed their accounts.
Wells Fargo ended its relationship with hawalas about five years ago.
Allie Shah • 612-673-4488