How a gesture from the Minneapolis mayor became #pointergate

A KSTP news story suggesting that Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges flashed a gang symbol in a photo with a member of the non-profit organization Neighborhoods Organizing for Change has gone viral – #pointergate is trending nationally.

We talked with the Executive Director of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, Anthony Newby. We extended invitations to the News Director at KSTP and to Mayor Hodges.

A video from Neighborhoods Organizing for Change during the get-out-the-vote canvas. The #pointergate event happens just after the 30 second mark.

The online reaction has included countless satires of the photo in question, as well as statements of support for Hodges and the organizer from politicians, public figures and academics.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

One of the main sources used by the author in the KSTP story was Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis President John Delmonico, who appeared to be raising questions about whether the photo could incite gang violence in the city: "For as critical as [Hodges] can be with the cops, is she going to support gangs in this city or cops?"

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau, Hodges and Delmonico appeared together at a press conference on a separate issue at Minneapolis City Hall on Friday afternoon.

Harteau declined to comment on the story. Delmonico told an MPR News reporter that he'd be available later but hasn't yet responded to phone calls.

Hodges pointed to a statement she'd released earlier in regards to the story, but declined to comment about the viral reaction online in support of her.

"My job as mayor is to be accessible as possible to the residents of Minneapolis, and help build relationships and trust in every community in our city. I constantly meet people and organizations who are working to make our communities stronger, including last weekend, when other community leaders and I joined Communities Organizing for Change to increase voter participation in north Minneapolis. It was a diverse group, including people who have made mistakes in their past. The more supportive that we can all be of people making better choices now, the better off we will all be in the future."

KSTP declined our invitation but issued a response.

Law enforcement sources alerted KSTP-TV to a photo they believed could jeopardize public safety and put their officers at risk, especially given the recent increase in gang violence. Multiple sources from several law enforcement agencies told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the photo had the potential for undermining the work they are doing on the streets. 5 Eyewitness News blurred the individual's face and did not name the group he was working for because police called into question only the judgment of Mayor Betsy Hodges.

Here is the NewsCut take: 'Gang sign' story backfires on KSTP

MPR News reporter Jon Collins contributed to this story.