The DFL has officially banned a Minneapolis City Council candidate from seeking future endorsement from the political party, two weeks after his supporters were allegedly involved in starting a melee that broke out at a local endorsing convention.
On Tuesday evening, longtime DFL Party Chair Ken Martin released a statement announcing the organization had utilized a pair of newly-approved bylaws that allowed its state central committee to ban Nasri Warsame, a Minneapolis resident, from “seeking the DFL Party endorsement for any office.”
“Tonight, the DFL Party’s Central Committee put new tools at our disposal which will help ensure our events remain safe and accessible to all, and allow us to hold anyone engaged in violence accountable,” Martin said in a Tuesday press release that was disseminated to media and published on the DFL Party website. “This is a positive step forward for our party and a rebuke to anyone who seeks to bring violence into a political movement like ours, which is guided by compassion and empathy for our fellow Minnesotans.”
“Additionally, the DFL Party has taken the unprecedented step of officially banning Nasri Warsame from seeking the DFL Party’s endorsement for any elected office,” Martin continued. “The behavior that Warsame’s campaign team and supporters engaged in at the Ward 10 endorsing convention was reprehensible, and today the DFL Party held their campaign accountable.”
The Ward 10 race is one of 13 City Council seats up for grabs in the 2023 municipal election this November.
Warsame has repeatedly denied he started or encouraged any of the violence that took place at the Saturday, May 13 Ward 10 endorsing convention in Uptown Minneapolis.
Warsame was challenging incumbent City Councilmember Aisha Chugtai for the pivotal DFL endorsement in that race, but the event ended in chaos as fights broke out and a large police presence responded to the scene at the Ella Baker Community School in the Uptown neighborhood.
The convention was gaveled to a close before either incumbent Chughtai or challenger Nasri Warsame received the endorsement.
According to Crime Watch Minneapolis, fights broke out inside the school around 2 p.m. as more than 300 people gathered for the convention. Multiple people were assaulted, including someone who was reportedly hit with a bullhorn, Crime Watch reported.
Martin blamed the violence on supporters of Warsame, citing video evidence and conversations with participants. Warsame, who is challenging the incumbent Chughtai, a democratic socialist, had denied the allegations he was involved in the brawl and said through multiple statements that he tried to calm the heated exchanges taking place among convention attendees.
Just days later, the campaign manager for Warsame accused Council Member Jeremiah Ellison of assaulting him during the brawl. Ellison, son of Attorney General Keith Ellison and current Minneapolis School Board Chair Kim Ellison, called the accusation a “meager and weak attempt to evade accountability.”
Similar incident took place at Minneapolis DFL caucus in 2014
It’s not the first time a Minneapolis DFL endorsing convention has ended in fisticuffs and controversy. In February 2014, a fight broke out among caucus goers at a DFL legislative caucus held at the Brian Coyle Center in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Police were called to that convention and shut it down. It was rescheduled weeks later.
Among those injured in that fight was a policy aide to City Councilmember Andrew Johnson. That staffer, named Ilhan Omar, also served at the time as a vice chair for the Senate district DFL. In that race Mohamud Noor (now a state legislator) challenged 42-year incumbent legislator Rep. Phyllis Kahn for the DFL endorsement. Omar spoke with multiple members of the media after the incident, and although she maintained in a interview with MinnPost following the caucus that she was there as a neutral observer, she said she was threatened by supporters of Kahn not to attend the convention as many believed she was there to support Noor. One local activist at the caucus accused Omar of slapping him. Omar denied those allegations when asked by MinnPost reporters in the 2014 story chronicling the brawl:
“Jama said Omar slapped him before she was hit. Omar denied that and said a group of women attacked her while others held her hands.
Omar was beaten as the crowded gym churned with activity. Earlier, Brian Coyle Center officials had called police, who eventually shut down the event when fighting broke out. Omar filed a report with police about the fight, but Jama did not. No arrests were made at the scene, though one Noor supporter was handcuffed by police and released a short time later.
Kahn dismissed Omar’s injuries, acknowledging that she didn’t know whether Omar had been sent to the hospital and had the forms to prove a concussion. ‘I participated in the process when it was much more unfriendly to women than that,’ Kahn said, describing a time she said she got the equivalent of a death threat. ‘Once that has happened, what’s a punch?'”
DFL Chair Ken Martin told MinnPost in the interview following the incident that, “The real problem is for 15 years the Somali community has been participating in this process and have had none of these problems. And it’s just a few people, on both sides frankly, that are causing trouble and ruining it for everyone else.”
In another interview with MPR News Martin said, “Democracy is never an easy thing, and sometimes it gets ugly. But it should never rise to the level that it did where people are being physically assaulted. It’s never called for. Our party doesn’t condone violence and our party doesn’t condone threats or intimidation.”
In a follow-up interview with MPR News, Martin said of the incident, “both sides took part in what he calls ‘unseemly’ behavior. He also said that the party is conducting its own investigation.”
Two years later, Ilhan Omar ran against Kahn and successfully defeated her for a seat in the state House.
Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.