As folks began gathering in Des Moines’ Cowles Commons on Monday to denounce the racist hatred that turned fatal in Charlottesville, a tall man moved about handing out candles and occasional hugs. Event organizer Connie Ryan of the Iowa Interfaith Alliance welcomed people and, to cheers, thanked 26-year-old Abshir Omar. If anyone has had to face hatred up close, Omar has.
He lost his father to tribal violence in the early 1990s in his native Somalia, just months before Omar was born. A civil war forced his mother to take four children and flee as refugees, first to Kenya and later to Seattle.
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