Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –
Close to 50 people gathered recently outside Portland City Hall for a "Peace and Unity" rally sparked by the recent arrest of 19 year old Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali-born U.S. citizen, who police said attempted to set off a bomb at a local Christmas-tree lighting ceremony.
Speakers maintained that the youth’s involvement in a fake bomb plot at Pioneer Courthouse Square reflected local Somali youths' need for support.
"We are gathered here in the cold rain because we care about our Somali community,” said City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, “and it takes all of us to keep us all safe… We also recognize that due process will be had and we will be stronger together because of this challenge."
Bashir Warsame, head of the Somali Community Services Coalition in SW Portland, said: "All Somali people are sad and I believe we want to show this as well as show that we want to increase support for our troubled youth."
Muna Obshir Mohamud of the Portland Office of Human Relations added: “"Islamaphobia is very real and we all hope that it will not be re-ignited… It may be too late for this Mohamud, but there are many, many Mohamuds out there. We need to make sure these Muslim men have our support."
The accused teenager, a college student who lived in Beaverton, Oregon, this week pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism. Defense attorneys say their client was "groomed" by the FBI who provided a van and the fake explosives that were supposed to terrorize the crowds at the tree lighting.
Officials say they didn't direct the plot, Mohamud did. He not only chose the venue for the attack, they said, but shrugged off attempts to derail the plot when it was under way.
But civil liberties advocates respond that these sting operations, particularly since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have ended up focusing on people who pose no real danger but are susceptible to being lured into pretend plots by law enforcement officials. At
At this week’s court appearance, lead attorney Stephen Sady told the court that “quite sophisticated” government agents were “basically grooming the individual.” He called the arrest “obviously timed for maximum impact and maximum publicity.
Mohamud was indicted on a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. A conviction would result in a maximum sentence of life in prison.