On May 13, the Minneapolis DFL held its Ward 10 convention to determine which City Council candidate would receive the DFL endorsement. Ward 10 Councilmember Aisha Chughtai is running against candidate Nasri Warsame. The convention, held in the auditorium at Ella Baker Global Studies & Humanities Magnet School near 26th and Hennepin Avenue, did not go smoothly.
Tensions rose throughout the four-hour-long convention, and the chaos peaked just before Chughtai and Warsame were about to take turns addressing the convention and participate in a question and answer session. As Chughtai took the stage to speak as part of a routine portion of most ward conventions, supporters from Warsame’s campaign stormed the stage and disrupted the proceedings, causing the convention to adjourn before either candidate could be endorsed. These moments were captured on video. Representatives of Warsame’s campaign can be seen physically confronting members of the Chughtai campaign as Warsame looks on in the background.
About 500 people attended the convention, which started at 10 a.m. There were 228 delegates present to endorse either Chughtai, Warsame, or vote for “no endorsement.” Minneapolis DFL party volunteers ran the convention with Sam Doten chairing the convention.
According to citizen journalist Josh Martin, who was reporting from the convention, there was an unusually large number of visitors relative to other ward conventions across the city.
“Normally, that section [for visitors] is pretty empty,” Martin said. “There were a number of alternate delegates, as well as many visitors who appeared to be volunteers with the Nasri Warsame campaign.”
Martin has reported from six previous DFL ward conventions this year, and said Ward 10’s convention was “rather tense compared to most conventions.”
Both Martin and multiple delegates to the convention confirmed it was hard to hear in the auditorium and there were loud conversations and shouting happening during convention proceedings.
In the lead-up to the physical altercations, Martin said he witnessed “tense conversations between representatives of the campaigns.”
The temperature in the room began to rise early in the day when the Warsame campaign challenged 78 delegates who had originally marked “no” to the “Do you want to be a delegate?” question, but later changed their response to “yes.” The motion to remove them as delegates was voted down by the delegates voting in the convention room, so those 78 delegates were able to stay.
Martin shared that tensions were heightened when trying to translate these procedural moments, and made more difficult by language barriers.
“Explaining complex parliamentary rules is difficult enough with a shared language, and translating those rules into another language is challenging. After some trial and error, the chair and the translators appeared to work out a system that worked better,” Martin said.
There was a prayer break for about an hour until 1:20 p.m. It was at the beginning of this break, around 12:30 p.m., when police were first called.
“I heard raised voices in the back of the auditorium… That’s the first time that MPD was called,” according to an alternate delegate. This is when a DFL volunteer was supposedly assaulted by someone at the convention, which led to the volunteer’s hospitalization. “MPD was called multiple times at this point.”
According to the alternate delegate and a delegate for Chughtai, the police arrived after the convention was adjourned.
After the break, the nomination process for DFL candidates proceeded. At 1:52 p.m. Warsame and Chughtai were officially nominated as DFL candidates.
When Chughtai took the stage to give her nomination speech, the convention broke down. The switch in the atmosphere was swift.
At 2:06 p.m. the DFL convention was called off. Martin said he heard an announcement over the PA system that the police had been called and people needed to leave the building.
“With the volume in the convention hall, it was difficult to hear all the details,” Martin said. “It was not entirely clear whether the announcement was applicable to everyone or if only certain people were being removed.”
At that point, the Ward 10 DFL convention chair, Sam Doten, officially adjourned the meeting on emergency grounds without endorsing a candidate. With a heavy police presence outside, convention attendees filtered outside. Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara was on the scene as well.
Ward 10 candidates, DFL party respond
The Minnesota DFL Party issued a statement Saturday night claiming that the conflict was instigated by the Warsame supporters.
“As we learn more about the incident that took place at the Ward 10 endorsing convention, it is clear that the conflict was instigated by supporters of city council candidate Nasri Warsame. Harassment and violence are unacceptable, and we expect candidates and their campaign teams to work hard to curb such behavior when it comes from their supporters, staffers, or volunteers.”
Chughtai’s campaign issued a statement on Saturday that blamed Warsame’s campaign for instigating violence.
“During the Ward 10 Convention, the Nasri Warsame campaign continually made people feel unsafe. They intimidated delegates and alternates, harassed and threatened DFL volunteers, and assaulted me and my supporters.”
Warsame’s campaign issued a press release Sunday night that took some responsibility for the violence.
“We deeply regret the unexpected and unfortunate events that took place Saturday, May 13th, at the Ward 10 Convention. I do not condone violence and I do not condone yesterday’s events. The incident should have never happened. I apologize to those who were impacted, and I pray for all who were injured…One person who participated in the violence was a volunteer, not a member of my campaign staff. This person was appropriately and immediately removed as a volunteer and should be permanently banned from any future conventions.”
Why tensions were high at the convention, especially with Warsame supporters, is speculative but the alternate delegate we spoke with said there was a lot of confusion about how the convention was run and that with issues raised by language translation, that confusion increased.
“I was confused… and my native language is English,” they said.
Southwest Voices reached out to Warsame campaign and have not heard back.
DFL volunteers, Doten, and others present at the convention noted that a few Warsame supporters were agitated, physically aggressive, and speaking loudly. They didn’t represent all of the supporters. Video evidence also shows that Warsame stood back as his supporters stormed the stage and took DFL papers from the DFL volunteers.
State DFL Party Chair Ken Martin is planning an emergency meeting to address what happened at the Ward 10 convention. “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 statement.