Somali Grocery Rally

On Saturday, April 13, a rally in the parking lot of the Central Area's Towfiq Halal Grocery brought out local politicians, concerned neighbors, and Somali families in colorful traditional dress. They were protesting the U.S. Department of Agriculture's March decision against Towfiq and two other Somali-owned grocery stores, barring the shops from accepting food stamps. The USDA says many food stamp transactions at the groceries were suspiciously large.

But the shop owners say most of their customers are immigrants who buy specially prepared food in large quantities (for example, an entire goat) and depend on food stamps to pay for it. Moreover, in November, one of the shops lost its inventory during a federal raid of an adjacent money-transfer business (the money transfer was suspected of financing terrorists).

At the rally, City Council Members Nick Licata and Richard Conlin (along with U.S. Representative Jim McDermott) raised concerns that the USDA decision amounts to discrimination against immigrants, fueled by post-September 11 paranoia. They also encouraged rally attendees to shop. By the end of the rally, the checkout line snaked around the small shop. AMY JENNIGES

Rugby Players Walk Out of Public Meeting

With the Mideast burning, it's hard to get bent out of shape over the inalienable rights of oppressed soccer and rugby players.

Having said that, the protest action orchestrated by Seattle Rugby Club activist Kristen Bush last week was certainly one effective political stunt. During the Thursday, April 11 public hearing at South Lake Union's Armory Building, Bush lambasted the Parks Board for its proposal to turn soccer and rugby field lights off at 10:00 p.m. instead of 11:00. Bush concluded her speech by saying she was fed up with talking; the neighbors and the sports teams will never agree on the issue anyway, she said. Bush threatened to resolve the debate by organizing the rugby club to get out the vote against city council members who signed off on the Parks Board plan. At that, Bush signaled her supporters (a new political action committee called Citizens for Outdoor Recreation), and about a fifth of the room stood up and left. JOSH FEIT

Easy Street Records Opens in Queen Anne

Despite music-chain bankruptcies and a decline in CD and single sales, Seattle independent music stores have been thriving ["Rave On," Pat Kearney, March 21]. Apparently, the trend is continuing. On April 21, Easy Street Records, a fine little record store and café in West Seattle, is opening a new store at the old Tower Books location, 20 Mercer Street on Lower Queen Anne. "We think Seattle needs another kick-ass record store," says Easy Street owner Matt Vaughan. Agreed. PAT KEARNEY