Local Current Blog

Brother Ali arrested in act of civil disobedience

Read more: Brother Ali reflects on his arrest and the Occupy Homes movement

Brother Ali was among 13 protesters arrested in South Minneapolis last night. Ali’s act of civil disobedience was part of an ongoing occupation of a foreclosed home in South Minneapolis, and occurred as over 125 people rallied in support of a family fighting against a bank error to keep their home.

According to Occupy activists and witnesses, Ali was the first to willingly cross police lines and be arrested last night for trespassing on the foreclosed property, and was one of the only protesters to be arrested without making a public statement. Instead, Ali remained silent and stoic as police placed him in handcuffs.

“We made sure anyone who was considering potentially getting arrested had thought it over and prepared something they wanted to say, as to why they were willing to step across a police line and be arrested for this family, this house, this case,” said Occupy Homes MN organizer Ben Egerman. “And so one after another, people did this. They stepped in front of a crowd of about 125 supporters and said what it was that had them there, you know, basically saying ‘I’m going to be arrested today.’ And the first of them was Brother Ali. He decided that he would rather be silent.”

Egerman says Ali has been interested in the Occupy Homes cause for the past few months. “I think one thing I’ve been really impressed by is he has really stressed that he wants to be a part of the movement as a participant, not just as an artist,” Egerman says. “I’ve really been impressed that, when push comes to shove, Ali is there because he wants to participate.”

Photo provided by Nick Espinosa/Occupy Homes MN

It’s not the first time Ali has spoken out about the Occupy Homes movement and shown support for the Cruz family fighting to keep their residence at 4044 Cedar Ave. When Ali was in our studios recently for an interview with Barb Abney, he touched on why this issue has become so important to him.

“When the Occupy movement sparked off, I think a lot of people — myself included — had lost a whole lot of faith in the electoral process and electoral politics,” he said. “And I started realizing that it’s going to take something more on behalf of the people, there’s going to have to be a movement to actually disrupt things, to actually disrupt some of these corporate injustices that are happening to people, to our real neighbors.”

Ali said the movement is, “something that’s really near to my heart and it’s really turned me on a lot. Because I see people of all ages, all colors, all backgrounds. There are 50-year-old white doctors from Minnetonka, down to my son who is 11, all together working on these issues and caring about each other and actually standing up to these corporations and to the banks in ways that really matter.”

For anyone familiar with Ali’s music, his recent activism will come as no surprise. Socio-political themes and his thoughts on community-drive activism are at the core of his new album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, which comes out August 21. In interviews leading up to the album’s release, Ali has referred to Mourning in America as a protest album and said it was inspired by the Arab Spring and Occupy movements, as well as his first trip to Mecca. The new album’s cover art depicts Ali, who is Muslim, kneeling down on an American flag in prayer.

Occupy activist Nick Espinosa said Ali’s involvement has helped them raise awareness of their cause on a national level. “We’ve been really fortunate to have people like Brother Ali and other artists like Guante stepping up and helping to support the work we’re doing, and using art as a catalyst and using their music as a catalyst to not just spread the ideas but actually motivate people to take action and get involved on a local level,” he said.

Ali was released from jail after posting bail at about 1:30 a.m.

Here is video of Ali’s arrest (via @mrnikog):

Read more: Brother Ali reflects on his arrest and the Occupy Homes movement