An estimated 100 people showed up Thursday afternoon for a Minnesota Jewish Coalition-organized rally on the steps of the State Capitol in St. Paul, but a vocal few were very disappointed with the direction the event took.
Marni Hockenberg, a Republican activist who live-streamed to her Facebook account that she was outraged that Somali activist Omar Jamal was one of the speakers of the event, “Stand Against Ilhan Omar’s Antisemitic Ideas & Support For BDS!”
“What the hell are they having a Somali speaker for?” Hockenberg said on her Facebook video posted to her account under the pseudonym Marnie Mockenberg. “This is wrong. I knew there was something wrong with this rally. I’m out of here.”
Louis Fine, the director of the Minnesota Jewish Coalition and the organizer of the event, posted on the Facebook event earlier this week that he was receiving pressure “from multiple sides” to have politicians be among the speakers, but he resisted.
“If the Republican or Democratic parties wish to hold a political event to address their partisan concerns and talking points regarding Ilhan Omar, they are welcome to have their own event separate from this one,” Fine wrote. “This event is and will remain nonpartisan and there will be no politicians speaking. Antisemitism is a much wider problem than partisan politics, and it needs to be addressed that way.”
Hockenberg declined to comment on two separate occasions.
The Minnesota Jewish Coalition is a recently-formed organization that, according to its Facebook page, is “an American, non-partisan, non-violent group that organizes against the persecution of Jews in the Americas, Europe, Israel, and elsewhere around the world. We support Jewish values and constitutional American values, and Israel’s right to exist and defend itself. We organize, inform, and demonstrate against the racism and bigotry of antisemitic individuals, organizations, and movements around the world.”
Fine said that the diversity of the lineup was a strength.
“We need to show that we have a society that is unified against antisemitism, so that means bringing people from all sorts of different cultures and political backgrounds together,” Fine said. “We had a young Jewish person, we had an Orthodox rabbi, we had an African Christian pastor and we had a prominent Somali activist. I couldn’t have been happier with the lineup that we had.”
In addition to Jamal, Kenesseth Israel Rabbi Emeritus Chaim Goldberger and Pastor George Wonlon also spoke. Goldberger said that to hate Jews is to hate the Judeo-Christian values America was founded on.
“Congresswoman Omar, these are the values you are supposed to represent,” Goldberger said. “To hate the Jews is to hate American values, and hatred for American values does not belong in the United States Congress.”
Omar’s office did not return calls seeking comment.
Rep. Betty McCollum, who represents Minnesota’s 4th District, has also been a supporter of BDS and has called Israel “an apartheid state.” The rally was held in McCollum’s district – not Omar’s, which covers Minneapolis and some western suburbs – but McCollum wasn’t mentioned at all.
“I live in Omar’s district,” Fine said.
Asked why the event wasn’t held in front of Omar’s Minneapolis office, Fine said: “We wanted the press to show up. It’s kind of hard to say no if you’re right outside the press’ office.”