Stone Arch Bridge, Dinkytown see weeks without rowdy teenage crowds; city credits moms, elders

Stone Arch Bridge, Dinkytown see weeks without rowdy teenage crowds; city credits moms, elders

Stone Arch Bridge, Dinkytown see weeks without rowdy teenage crowds; city credits moms, elders

Two hotspot hangouts this summer for rowdy crowds of teenagers — who shot fireworks at cars, businesses and neighbors — have cooled down. It’s been four weeks since the last disturbance in Dinkytown or at the Stone Arch Bridge, and the City of Minneapolis is crediting a group of elders, mostly mothers.

There’s nothing like a mother’s watchful eye, a power that Farhio Khalif with the nonprofit Somali Youth Link has harnessed to tamp down the violence and rowdy behavior.

“So our goal is just to say, ‘Go home,'” Khalif said.

The idea has grown into seven to eight elders patrolling both areas on foot every Saturday and Sunday for the past few weeks “to provide advice,” explained Somali Youth Link operations director Basheir Elmi.

“And see if we can help youth not to make those mistakes that will eventually, you know, alter their future, and cause them pain and agony for their families,” Elmi said.

“And you have to explain to the mothers and the elders — Yes, we are advocating for youth issues, but also, we need you to come work with us at this time,” Khalif added. Because you know what? They’re not at home, they’re on the streets. How can we bring them back to the house?”

Since they began walking, it’s been working, said south Minneapolis mother and Somali Youth Link volunteer Waris Mohamud, walking alongside Khalif.

“They respect us,” she said. “When they see us, they wonder, like, ‘Why [do] the mothers come over here?’ So we said, ‘We are here to show you guys, everywhere you go, we are here, and we are walking with the police.’ . . . And you know, so when they see us, they leave.”

“It’s very simple, really,” Mohamud laughed.

What’s not so simple, the group added, has been overcoming some public perceptions.

“Some of the community are stressed out because you are immigrant, you’re Black. ‘OK, are you in the right neighborhood?'” Khalif shared, referring to some of the reactions she said faces groups of Somali and Somali-American teenagers, rowdy or peaceful. “So yeah, I see a lot of mixed feelings. But we want to make sure that they have the right to come here to walk, but peacefully.”

From the other side of the Stone Arch area, City Councilmember Michael Rainville, Ward 3’s representative, was pleased with what he’s calling a solution, one he’s been in search of for several summers.

“It’s working, it’s wonderful,” he said through a smile.

Rainville helped to secure a six-month, $50,000 contract for Somali Youth Link after crime surged earlier this year.

“Both the Stone Arch Bridge and Dinkytown were hotspots this summer for a time,” he said. “It was terrible, armed muggings, shootings, of course, the fireworks being thrown at police and students — terrible assault about a month ago, and that just spurred action.”

Rainville credited Khalif for approaching him with the plan and for “four weeks of non-violence at both locations.”

“No calls at all since we started this program,” he said.

“We really think they see now,” Khalif added. “When mothers come out — especially the women come out and the elders come out — the youth are listening, and they watch, and they go home.”

Rainville expressed his intent to continue to help fund and restart the program in the spring.

Khalif also has hopes of expanding Somali Youth Link’s efforts beyond the two locations, adding that they have been able to reach further into central Minneapolis with the help of the nonprofit 21 Days of Peace.

The group continues to look for additional volunteers — especially mothers — to get involved. To get involved, she said, email