Five years earlier, Omar told the students, she was working for a Minneapolis city councilman who asked her to report back on problems with the 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.
In an interview, Omar said she may have flubbed some facts. “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.”