DFL chair promises changes after Minneapolis convention fight

A crowd gathers in protest holding signs of support
A video posted to Twitter by the Wedge Live account shows a heated scene between supporters of challenger Nasri Warsame and incumbent Ward 10 councilwoman Aisha Chughtai on Saturday.
Screenshot of Wedge LIVE video

Updated: May 17, 1:23 p.m.

Minnesota DFL Party Chair Ken Martin is calling for an emergency meeting of the party’s state executive committee after a fight at a nominating convention for city council candidates in Minneapolis on Saturday.

A video posted to Twitter by the Wedge Live account shows a heated scene between supporters of challenger Nasri Warsame and incumbent Ward 10 City Council Member Aisha Chughtai.

DFL organizers said it happened as the candidates were set to speak and make their case for endorsement. Chughtai was selected at random to speak first, and was making her way to the stage with supporters.

DFL activist and convention volunteer Quentin Wathum-Ocama said it was chaotic and the fracas forced the convention to come to a premature end.

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“We cannot have a convention if people aren't safe, And people are throwing things or people are punching things. Or if people are trying to physically assault me which they attempted to do multiple times,” Wathum-Ocama said. “We were done … there was just no way and we didn't feel safe. I didn't feel safe. If I have to tell candidates to get off the stage because I don't think they’re safe, we have a problem.”

Police were called and noted a large crowd, but the fight seemed to be over. Police report one person was treated for non-life-threatening injuries. No arrests were made.

Martin said he will propose a bylaw to ban people who engage in violent assaults from the party. and “will then take immediate action to remove the folks involved in Ward 10.”

In a statement, Chughtai said the experience was horrifying and said more than a dozen of her supporters and DFL volunteers were physically assaulted over the course of the convention.

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

In response, Warsame said his campaign manager was assaulted, and said “Violence & unfairness have no place in democracy.”

But Martin said after reviewing the video and speaking with people at the convention, it was clear that it was Warsame’s supporters who instigated the tension.

“I would like to apologize to City Council Member Aisha Chughtai, her supporters, and her campaign team for the way they were treated at the Ward 10 convention,” Martin said in a statement. “Our candidates and supporters deserve a safe forum to campaign at, and the Ward 10 convention fell far short of that. Our party will work with local leaders in Minneapolis to ensure future events are not marred by reprehensible conduct.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey also condemned the actions on Twitter.

“The behavior we saw at yesterday’s Ward 10 convention was not okay. Physical intimidation, threats, and harassment have no place in our democracy or our politics — not at conventions, not at city council meetings,” Frey said.

Correction (May 17, 2023): This story has been updated with correct spelling for the last name of a DFL activist and convention volunteer.