DFL Chair says Warsame campaign instigated conflict; calls meeting

DFL Chairman Ken Martin has called for an emergency meeting of the party’s executive committee, following chaos at the endorsement convention Saturday in the race to represent Ward 10 on the Minneapolis City Council

"I will be proposing a bylaw to ban individuals engaged in violent assaults from the DFL Party and will then take immediate action to remove the folks involved in Ward 10," Martin said in a press release Saturday evening. 

A DFL spokesperson told FOX 9 the meeting is expected to occur this week, and that the party will likely provide another update once it's complete. 

Footage of the convention in the auditorium of the Ella Baker Global Studies & Humanities Magnet School was posted to YouTube by the Wedge Live, a blog about Minneapolis politics. It showed that the ruckus began just as Minneapolis Council Member Aisha Chughtai was about to speak, when supporters of challenger Nasri Warsame began shouting and moving toward the stage. Chughtai's supporters stepped in their way, leading to a tense, loud and chaotic scene.   

It's unclear from the video what started it, and the footage doesn't appear to capture anyone hitting someone.  

Quentin Wathum-Ocama, a volunteer sergeant at arms, told FOX 9’s Bab Santos that he has years of experience working conventions but had never seen anything like what happened on Saturday. 

"I had things thrown at me yesterday. I had people attempt to swing at me from a stage… people were people trying to get at me," he said.  

He also said Warsame had acted "belligerently" and cursed at him.

Another volunteer sergeant at arms, Latonya Reeves, said in an interview she was hit in the head, spit on, pushed and shoved, and was taken to the hospital for a few hours with high blood pressure. She said she then spent the next day at home in pain. 

In an earlier statement, Martin had pinned responsibility for the conflict on Warsame’s campaign. 

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey posted on Twitter to condemn the incident, describing the behavior seen in the footage as "Not okay."

"Physical intimidation, threats, and harassment have no place in our democracy or our politics — not at conventions, not at city council meetings," he wrote. 

Candidate statements 

Chughtai posted a lengthy statement saying members of Warsame’s campaign had "punched multiple women of color" on her team, and had "shoved and harassed" LGBTQIA2S+ delegates and supporters.

"This action by the Warsame campaign to harass, bully, and assault my supporters and DFL volunteers was an attempt to scare us. Despite all this, we stayed calm and committed to our vision for Ward 10 and local democracy," he wrote.

Warsame issued a press release Sunday evening challenging the statements from Chughtai and the DFL. 

"The statements published by both Aisha and the MN DFL are defamatory, slander, and libel because they disregard the truth that neither I nor my campaign promoted or encouraged yesterday’s disorder and violence. The MN DFL prematurely published a statement and failed to accurately include first-hand accounts or videos taken by our campaign that shows the violence was not one-sided and rested the blame solely on my campaign," he wrote. 

He said he had pleaded for order from the stage, but to no avail, and that a volunteer from his campaign who "participated in the violence," was removed and should be banned. He alleged that a Chughtai's supporter had assaulted his campaign manager and a delegate. He argued the proceedings had been unfair. 

"Some convention officials showed highly biased and impartial behavior towards my delegates. For example, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) aligned convention officials were: (1) making the process to upgrade delegates impossible and refused to freeze the floor on multiple occasions; (2) inaccurately recorded vote totals; (3) delegates whose credentials were challenged were then allowed to vote on that issue, which was improper; (4) the convention chair, the credential team, and the sergeant at arms were not neutral..."

Earlier, Warsame posted a photo from a hospital with him standing next to a woman in a bed. He said she was one his delegates. 

"Just visited one of my delegates in hospital, wish her quick recovery! Violence & unfairness have no place in democracy!!," he wrote.

Both Warsame and Chughtai declined interview requests on Sunday. 

MPD statement 

Minneapolis police were called to the scene. A spokesperson issued the following statement:

"MPD officers responded to the report of a fight at a large gathering at the listed location. Arriving officers found a large crowd and heard reports of people of fighting but did observe any physical fighting or any signs of injuries. The large crowd eventually dispersed. Though there were reports of multiple injuries, only an adult male in his 30’s was transported to HCMC by EMS for a nonlife-threating medical condition. An adult female in her 40’s was treated by EMS at the scene for a nonlife-threatening injury."

The convention was called off before a vote could be held to determine who would get the endorsement. It’s unclear how the endorsement will now be determined.

Wathum-Ocama said he hopes the party takes action against the people who instigated the conflict. 

"If there were folks who were in who came and are engaged in our caucus and convention process, who committed acts of violence was physical intimidation, that they do not deserve to participate in our party full stop. That's not what democracy is. And I think that's the first step in accountability and figuring out how we can look at our processes and figure out how we can make them to make sure things like this can't happen and that candidates don't have an incentive to use these kind of tactics ever again to try to disrupt the democratic process," he said. 

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said Latonya Reeves said she was "stomped on." She said she hit, not stomped on. We regret the error.