Six weeks ago, Rep. Omar made a visit to Richfield High School in Minneapolis where she spoke to several hundred students in the school’s auditorium. She posted this tweet after the visit:
Thank you Richfield High Schools students and staff for allowing me to visit this morning. I loved sharing my story and answering questions.
Be sure to follow me on Instagram @RepIlhan for more updates on events while I’m back home in MN-05! pic.twitter.com/RsmTPvAVpP
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) May 28, 2019
The Washington Post reports that during her visit she told the students a story that was intended to offer some insight into her political history. This is the story she told. See if it sounds familiar to you? Five years earlier, she had been working for a city councilman and was asked to report back on any problems in the local courts:
There, she recalled encountering a “sweet, old . . . African American lady” who had been arrested for stealing a $2 loaf of bread to feed her “starving 5-year-old granddaughter.”
After spending the weekend in jail, the woman was led into the courtroom and fined $80 — a penalty she couldn’t pay. “I couldn’t control my emotions,” Omar continued, “because I couldn’t understand how a roomful of educated adults could do something so unjust.”
“Bulls—!” she recalled yelling in the courtroom.
Laughter rippled through the auditorium, then silence.
Omar’s story echoed the plot of “Les Miserables.” If true, it is also probably embellished. City officials said that police aren’t allowed to arrest people for shoplifting unless there’s a likelihood of violence or further crime. Typically, shoplifters are sentenced to attend a three-hour class.
I love every part of this story. I love the little old woman whose name was clearly Jean Valjean (and probably looked a little like that guy from the Wolverine movies, because I doubt Omar read the book). I also love the emotional climax of the story in which Rep. Omar shouted an obscenity in a courtroom. Does anyone else think she’d have been found in contempt of court if she tried this? Also, if Omar was so outraged, why didn’t she just pay the $80 fine for the sweet old African American lady? I mean, a major injustice is happening right before her eyes but Omar just walked out and then used the story to publicly proclaim her compassion for the poor woman she didn’t help.
In an interview with the Post about the story, Omar admitted she may have gotten some of the details wrong: “She might have had a prior [arrest],” Omar said. “I’m not sure. . . . The details might not have all matched, but that’s what I remember.”
Next month, Omar will be telling Middle School kids the story of a poor woman named Fantine who was separated from her daughter Cosette at the border. And when Omar witnessed this injustice, she spontaneously burst into song in immigration court:
I dreamed a dream in time gone by,
When hope was high and life worth living!
It’s a true story. At least, that’s how Omar remembers it but some of the details may be a little off.