In early 2019, reports and memes re-emerged on social media about the purported 2013 arrest of future U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar in Minneapolis. The incident has periodically been the subject of scrutiny (primarily from the Democrat lawmaker’s right-leaning opponents), since her 2018 election in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District. Omar won that race, making history by becoming the first Somali-American and one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
On 15 February 2019 the “National Liberty Foundation” Facebook page posted what appeared to be a booking photograph of Omar, along with the following description:
“Democrat State Rep Ilhan Omar, devoid of her hijab, apparently was arrested in 2013 for trespassing. She was booked at the Hennepin County Jail ‘to prevent further criminal conduct.’ She was described as ‘mad/angry and uncooperative by arresting officers.”
The post linked to an October 2018 article on the right-leaning Minnesota website Alpha News, which reported that:
State Rep. Ilhan Omar was arrested in 2013 for trespassing and booked at Hennepin County Jail “to prevent further criminal conduct,” according to a newly uncovered police report.
The incident took place on January 18, 2013 following an event at the Minneapolis Convention Center featuring former Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The Somali president was set to stay the night at the Hotel Ivy, causing large groups of Somalis to follow the presidential convoy to the hotel, including Omar.
According to the police report, hotel staff requested police assistance in clearing the lobby, saying that anyone without a hotel room key was not welcome on the premises and needed to leave immediately. The officer handling the incident said the majority of people who were asked to leave were compliant. However, Omar, when approached, was “argumentative” and refused to leave.
The article included what appeared to be an authentic police report. The first two pages matched a document provided to Snopes by Minneapolis city officials, which detailed that Minneapolis police Officers Oscar Macias and Bill Peterson arrested Omar at the Hotel Ivy in downtown Minneapolis, just after midnight on 19 January 2013. She was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor trespass under Section 609.605 of the Minnesota Statutes and booked into Hennepin County Jail.
A brief description of the arrest stated that:
“[Omar] was given repeated opportunities to leave the hotel on her own free will, however she refused to leave even after being verbally trespassed by uniformed Minneapolis police officers and informed that she would be placed under arrest for trespassing. [Omar] was booked at HCJ [Hennepin County jail] in order to prevent further criminal conduct.”
The longer document posted by Alpha News also contained supplementary details, including what appeared to be accounts written by the arresting officers, which characterized Omar’s behavior and demeanor during the incident as uncooperative and argumentative. Although the report appears authentic, the supplementary pages were not included in the document we received from the city of Minneapolis, so we can’t definitively confirm its authenticity.
Omar was not an elected official at the time of her arrest. She won election to the Minnesota State House of Representatives in 2016. According to Minnesota’s Star Tribune newspaper, the charges against Omar were later dropped, and we found no evidence of trespass charges against Omar in a database of Minnesota court records.
We asked Omar’s office whether she disputed what appeared to be arresting officer descriptions of her behavior as argumentative and uncooperative, why she was present at the hotel in the first place, and why she refused to leave when asked to do so.
Unfortunately, despite multiple requests for comment, placed over several days, we received no substantive response from Omar’s spokesperson.