Minnesota Democratic Party leaders met in a closed executive session over Zoom on Thursday evening to discuss a rule change that would permanently ban people involved in violence from party activities, just days after chaos broke out during a weekend convention to endorse a candidate for a Minneapolis City Council race.
Ken Martin, chair of the state Democratic Party organization, called the melee that erupted Saturday night “unacceptable.”
Video circulating on social media shows that the disturbance began after supporters of incumbent Aisha Chughtai took the stage to seek delegates’ backing for the Ward 10 City Council seat. That sparked an uproar among backers of her challenger, Nasri Warsame. Some jumped on stage, shouting, banging on tables and waving signs. At least two people were injured, and the convention broke up with no endorsement.
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Martin said on Twitter that it was “clear that the conflict was instigated” by Warsame supporters. He continued to place the blame on some of Warsame’s supporters on Thursday.
Martin said some mistakes were made, but “none of those mistakes, big or small. justify a few bad actors from the Warsame campaign taking things into their own hands and inciting, encouraging and participating in violence against other DFL participants.”
He proposed two bylaws that would essentially ban individuals engaged in “physical assaults, terroristic threats or violent acts” from party activities. The first would immediately and permanently disqualify an individual from seeking the party’s endorsement if they or their campaign supporters engage in such acts. The second would permanently ban an individual who carried out such acts from any elected or appointed position within the party, including serving as a delegate or alternate to a convention.
“Disagreements over how a convention was run is not an excuse for violence. Not understanding the convention process is not an excuse for violence,” Martin said. He later added: “The reality is, if we don’t act, this will just embolden people in the future to use this as a tactic to essentially force conventions to adjourn.”
Thursday’s meeting was an emergency meeting of the party’s executive committee. Their recommendation would go to the DFL State Central Committee for final approval.
Both candidates are Democrats in an overwhelmingly Democratic city when campaigns for party backing are often heated. Warsame, a political newcomer, is a Somali immigrant.
Chughtai is a longtime activist who managed U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s 2018 campaign. She is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants and has support from some prominent Somali American politicians, including Omar and state Sen. Zaynab Mohamed, and other Muslims, including Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.
Chughtai has endorsements from a long list of progressive and labor groups, including the Democratic Socialists of America. Warsame has campaigned on a law-and-order message.
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Warsame said at a news conference Wednesday: “I do not condone violence. I do not condone intimidation or harassment of any sort.” Before Thursday’s closed-door session, Warsame’s campaign manager, Abshir Omar, told the executive committee that he supports Martin’s message condemning the violence, but that he was disheartened by statements that blamed Warsame supporters, saying party officials never contacted the campaign to get their side of the story.
Samuel Doten. who chaired Saturday’s convention, told the committee that the chaos unfolded due to the actions of about five to 10 people, and that it was not representative of all of Warsame’s supporters. He urged the committee to avoid disenfranchising the Somali community from participating in the process.
Chughtai released a statement on Wednesday saying the video does not match the Warsame campaign’s version of events.
“Campaigns that are winning and have the support of the people don’t violently disrupt the process,” she said. “As a campaign and as a movement, we’re on the path to a safer, more just Minneapolis and we look forward to continuing to share that vision with the people of Ward 10.”
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