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Did the Mayor of Minneapolis flash a gang sign in public?


This is a discussion that took place on the Minneapolis e-democracy forum between November 7th and November 13th in 2014 involving attitudes toward law enforcement and issues related to race. It started with a story on KSTP-TV, the ABC television affiliate in Minneapolis-St. Paul, about police complaints that the Mayor of Minneapolis had posed for a photograph with a young black man in which both displayed gang signs.

A firestorm of protest soon erupted about the story. The main bone of contention was that this was a non-story arranged by the mayor's enemies which played to racial prejudice. The young man in the photo had a criminal record but he was trying to put his life back together. He, the mayor, and others (including the police chief) were going door to door to register new voters prior to the 2014 election. The KSTP story seemed to many to be a deliberate attempt to put the black community in a negative light, illustrating the latent racism in our society.


KSTP gets earful on National Enquirer-like tabloid headline


Steven Clift November 7, 2014 1:25 p.m.

Check out:

" Mpls. Mayor Flashes Gang Sign with Convicted Felon; Law Enforcement Outraged"


So ... what does this sign supposedly mean???

[Dear White People: Mayor Betsy Hodges is Not in a Gang (in Star Tribune)

Posted by: Nekima Levy-Pounds under Society, Crime, Government, Politics Updated: November 7, 2014 - 5:28 AM Nekima Levy-Pounds is a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas Law School and the founding director of the Community Justice Project, a civil rights legal clinic.

I wish I could say this headline is a joke, but sadly in the wake of an appalling news story by KSTP 5 last night, it is anything but funny. The news segment, entitled, “Minneapolis Mayor Flashes Gang Sign,” showed a photo of Mayor Hodges and a young black man supposedly throwing up a gang sign. In actuality, she and the young man were just pointing at each other. My eyes could not believe what I was seeing, but not for the reasons one may think. I could not believe that any credible news station in the Twin Cities would produce a segment like the one in question and attempt to pass it off as legitimate news. After the story aired, many in our community took to social media, with the hashtag #pointergate to express their outrage.

Don’t believe the hype

After processing the contents of the story, I thought about the tens of thousands of white Minnesotans who tuned into the news and were served a steady diet of racial stereotypes, innuendoes, and a false narrative about the Mayor and the young African American man standing beside her in the photo. For white Minnesotans who do not personally know any young African American men, it is all too easy to take the media’s word as absolute truth and embrace the negative racial stereotypes that are being perpetuated about the young man in the photo.

I had the privilege of meeting the young man in the photo several months ago at a community meeting. I learned that he has worked hard to reintegrate back into the community by being employed as a canvasser at Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) for the past two years. This young man personally knocked on thousands of doors during the election season to help get out the vote and educate community residents about the impacts of felon disenfranchisement in Minnesota.

As a young black man with a criminal history, he has experienced numerous challenges in attempting to successfully reintegrate back into society. Many of those challenges have occurred in his interactions with law enforcement in Minneapolis. He has been handcuffed and detained for things like spitting on the sidewalk and even arrested at a Cub Foods store on the Northside for registering people to vote.  Last weekend, this same young man was part of a larger effort to engage in door knocking with members of NOC, the Mayor, and Chief Harteau. The photo in question was taken briefly during that effort.

A Kafkaesque moment

Rather than celebrating the young man’s involvement in civic engagement, the media decided to replay an age-old narrative of stereotyping a young black man from the inner city and branding him as a gang member. Because of the Mayor’s willingness to reach into the community and build connections, she too, was labeled in a similar manner and accused of having gang affiliations. I posit, another reason the Mayor was targeted in the story is the fact that she has demonstrated courage by speaking publicly about much-needed reforms within the Minneapolis Police Department, including the body-cam pilot project that is being rolled out today. Resistance to change comes in many forms, and sadly this is one of the worst examples of such resistance. The young man in the photo was merely a convenient scapegoat for a larger agenda.

The constant portrayal of young black men as gangsters, thugs, and criminals can be seen nearly every night on the news or in newspapers in Minnesota and around the country. Undoubtedly these negative perceptions contributed to the untimely deaths of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Jordan Davis, and countless other victims. The daily replaying of the narrative of blackness as evil, dangerous, and in the case of Mayor Hodges, contagious, has a cumulative effect on the American psyche and permanently warps our perceptions of the “other.” Indeed, nary can many of us walk past a young African American man without a whole host of racial stereotypes, prejudices, and fears coming to the surface.
Negative perceptions of young black men influence laws and policies

One of the problems with negative perceptions of young black men is the fact that such views do not stay contained within individuals, but tend to influence our laws, policies, and our willingness to tolerate police abuse, harassment, and unjust arrests of this segment of the population. In essence, we become desensitized to the dehumanizing treatment of young black men and such treatment becomes par for the course. We forget to see them as real human beings who deserve to be welcomed into the human family and treated with the same level of dignity we have all come to expect. This should be the case even when someone has a criminal history and is looking to reintegrate back into society after paying his or her dues. (After all, 1 in 26 Minnesotans has a criminal history; and studies show that 95% of all prisoners will return home someday.) We cannot perpetually exclude and demonize people who have made their share of mistakes, just as many of us have made our share of mistakes, yet God’s grace has covered us.

We’ve got to fight the powers that be

As people who pride ourselves on being progressive, we must do a better job of building bridges and tearing down racial and socio-economic barriers. We must challenge narratives that constantly portray people of color as being suspicious, engaged in crime, “or up to no good.” We must hold our media outlets accountable for producing stories that are balanced, fair, accurate, and sensible. We must also be willing to use our voices to advocate on behalf of those who are made to feel as though they are outside the human family. Let us not despair. Instead, let us take action to change things for the better.]

Joe Nathan November 7, 2014 1:49 p.m.

Thanks for posting, Steve. Hope many will comment on KSTP website, as well
as on Strib website where Nakima Levy-Pounds has posted a great commentary
on this story.

Steven Clift November 7, 2014 3:17 p.m.

Check this out:

And an awesome video about change in the community that actually catches the
photo moment:



Bill Kahn November 7, 2014 4:30 p.m.

Perhaps a representative of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis or
even the retired cop who originated this 'story' should tell us what the
particular gang sign supposedly flashed by the Northside kid and Mayor Hodges,
means. Vice Lords? Is it supposed to represent a gun?

I don't know what it means other than two people pointing at one another, but I
think we should all write the FCC to urge them to yank the KSTP license as this
goes beyond news and into the realm of dangerous propaganda, i.e., they are
making things far worse and mocking efforts to engage members of the community
in civic life.

I guess you have to expect stuff like this at election time, but this poor
excuse for journalism crosses the line into very evil work.

On Nov 7, 2014, at 9:17 AM,

Steven Clift <email obscured>> wrote:

Check this out:


And an awesome video about change in the community that actually catches the
photo moment:

> https://


Scott Vreeland November 7, 2014 8:12 p.m.

The question of who is a criminal and why... is rarely asked on a personal
level. I recently met the artist, Emily Baxter, who created this project and told
her how powerfully she told the message to me personally about both white
privilege and how many of us don't think about how mistakes of our past
could have changed the course of our lives. This is really powerful work and
should be part of law enforcement training.


Scott Vreeland

One in four people in the United States has a criminal record.
It’s a record for something other than a minor traffic violation used by
the vast majority of employers, legislators, landlords and licensing boards
to craft policy and determine the character of an individual. In our
electronic and data age, it typically does not disappear, regardless of how
long it’s been or how far one’s come. It’s a record that prevents not only
professional licensure and a gainful career path, but can also get in the way
of obtaining entry-level positions, foster care licenses, entry into
college, and safe housing. But We Are All Criminals is not about those

This project looks at the other 75%: those of us who have had the luxury of
living without an official reminder of a past mistake.

Participants in We Are All Criminals tell stories of crimes they got away
with. While there are some exceptions, the majority of the people
interviewed relayed numerous offenses; in most cases, only one of the stories
has been cataloged.

The participants are doctors and lawyers, social workers and students,
retailers and retirees who consider how very different their lives could have
been had they been caught. The photographs, while protecting participants’
identities, convey personality: each is taken in the participant’s home,
office, crime scene, or neighborhood.

The stories are of youth, boredom, intoxication, and porta potties. They
are humorous, humiliating, and humbling in turn. They are privately held
memories without public stigma; they are criminal histories without criminal

We Are All Criminals seeks to challenge society’s perception of what it
means to be a criminal and how much weight a record should be given, when
truly – we are all criminals. But it is also a commentary on the disparate
impact of our nation’s policies, policing, and prosecution: many of the
participants benefited from belonging to a class and race that is not
overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Permanent and public criminal
records perpetuate inequities, precluding millions of people from countless
opportunities to move on and move up.

We Are All Criminals questions the wisdom and fairness in those policies.
But this goes beyond background checks. It goes beyond how we make choices
of who we interview, hire, or to whom we rent. This is about how we view
others by how we view ourselves. It’s true: we are all criminals. But more
importantly, we are all human. And some of us, perhaps one in four of us, may
be in need of a second chance.

So, what’s your story?


Bill McGaughey November 8, 2014 12:16 a.m.

It depends upon whether Mayor Hodges knew this was a gang sign. If she did
not, she should say so and comment that the incident was regrettable. If she
did, she exercised poor judgment. It's not cool for the Mayor of Minneapolis
to flash gang signs.


Liz Wielinski November 8, 2014 12:41 a.m.

Seriously, it's gone national... Hubbard out foxing Fox News


who wouldn't recognize a gang sign from sign language


Bill Kahn November 8, 2014 12:45 a.m.

This might help, Liz:



Jack Ferman November 8, 2014 1:16 a.m.

Since when is pointing with thumb up a gang sign. I and everyone I grew up with
have been doing that for 80 years.


David Tilsen November 8, 2014 2:15 p.m.

Well, I don't see the pointing on the list. More, however, now if I flash the
peace sign, or do the A OK sign , I am flashing a gang symbol? Nope, they
can't have em.


Bill McGaughey November 8, 2014 3:43 p.m.

The gist of postings on this thread is that, of course, the mayor was merely
pointing at the young black man and that KSTP was playing to racial stereotypes
in running this story; therefore, we ought to boycott KSTP.

Not so fast. The question is whether the mayor flashed a known gang sign. If
it was a gang sign, did she know it was or should she reasonably have known?
Law enforcement spokesmen said it was a gang sign. I did not know that it was
and maybe the mayor didn't either. But then she should have told us. Instead,
the mayor's office issued a statement to the effect that she was merely
pointing. Does that mean that the mayor had no knowledge of the gesture being
a gang sign? The public needs to hear from her on the question of her
knowledge and intent.

I think it is possible that this was a gang sign because the index finger is
perpendicular to the thumb creating the shape of a gun. But, again, I do not

With respect to KSTP, I think this was a legitimate story. It may have been
planted by the mayor's political enemies; this is par for the course. There
are many explanationsother than that KSTP are racists who try to air as many negative stories about
the black community as they can.

With respect to Nakima Levy-Pounds' message, I would say that the KSTP story
was clearly about Mayor Hodges, not about her "pointing" partner. Mayor Hodges
is white. If they ran a story about a relatively unknown person of any race
flashing a gang sign, it would not be news. The mayor's conduct is news.

This is a sensitive issue because the police deserve the backing of elected
officials when they do the job we expect of them. If the mayor jokingly or
otherwise makes gang signs in public, it undercuts what the police are trying
to do.

Now, of course, if the police use excessive force or otherwise go beyond their
mission, they are legitimate targets of criticism; and I, for one, am not
afraid to criticize them. However, in this case, the police have a legitimate


Arthur Himmelman November 8, 2014 4:07 p.m.

I am beyond incredulous that some people believe Mayor Hodges would flash a
gang sign (and, if it is a gang sign, she has been flashing it for a long time
at a lot of people who did not know that it was a gang sign) with the chief of
police standing next to her and have her picture taken knowing that it would be
distributed worldwide on the Internet. If so, what do you think her motive was?
What possible benefit would she gain by doing it? Maybe we can get answers to
these questions from the careful "research/investigating" that I am sure KSTP
did before airing the so-called news story. NOT!


Jonna Connelly November 8, 2014 5:39 p.m.

IF the mayor flashed a gang sign and knew she was doing it, I have to ask why.
Why would she do that? Is she crazy?

Boycotting KSTP isn't an issue for me. I stopped watching their news years ago
when I noticed their decided conservative bias.


Carol Overland November 8, 2014 6:14 p.m.

This is not about gang signs.

What disturbs me most about this fracas is that Novelle Gordon is the
Neighbors Organizing for Change worker who was tossed to the ground and
handcuffed at CUB. When Wintana Melekin, co-worker, went to CUB to
check it out, she was busted too. That's on youtube. NOC also had the
dubious distinction of Don Samuels calling the police on them for giving
out hotdogs. Two points make a line and we have three, now four.

Don't cha think this is an important backstory that's being ignored???
Why would they mask his face? It's not reasonable to believe the police
union didn't know exactly who he is. I'd guess their first court
appearance would have happened recently.

The STrib did at long last report the connection in a mid-story
afterthought today, when it should have been the headline: "Activists
also stood up for Gordon in September after cops allegedly tackled and
handcuffed him while he was collecting signatures outside Cub Foods."

KSTP points finger at Minneapolis mayor, critics gang up:

Minneapolis police accused of strong arm tactics with canvasser:

This is not about gang signs. It's about police union attempts to
divert attention from their misbehavior towards NOC. It's about KSTP
being complicit, being a tool of the union and ignoring basic
journalistic tenets. It's about KSTP publishing this defamation of the
Mayor (it sure looks like actual malice to me).

You can file a complaint with the FCC here:

KSTP needs a lawsuit and its license jerked!


Tamir Nolley November 8, 2014 8:21 p.m.

To further comment on Carol's post above let's also remember exactly what the
" terrible, threatening crime" that Novelle Gordon and Neighbors Organizing for
Change are guilty of that caused police to harass Mr. Gordon outside of Cub
Foods and caused a candidate to call police on them.

That "crime" is registering North Side residents to vote! Given 2012's voter
suppression amendment that was defeated, and the charter amendment that passed
this year it's makes sense that Mr. Delmonico and Mr. Hubbard are very
threatened by the idea of young African Americans voting en mass. How dare the
Mayor encourage participation in the political process!

Unfortunately, we can't "vote" KSTP off of University Ave (they are on the St.
Paul side), but we can all stop watching.


Jack Ferman November 8, 2014 9:11 p.m.

The only way to 'get' KSTP is through their advertisers. Of course, this would
be very difficult, because many, if not most, advertisers are nation-wide in


Laura Waterman Wittstock November 8, 2014 10:18 p.m.

On Nov 8, 2014, at 10:07 AM, Arthur Himmelman wrote:

I am beyond incredulous that some people believe Mayor Hodges would flash a
gang sign (and, if it is a gang sign, she has been flashing it for a long time
at a lot of people who did not know that it was a gang sign) ....

We've gone way too far over the brink by associating hand signals with gang
signs. Playful pointing is not the same as signaling a secret language in a
prison or on the street. I'm aghast to realize that millions of these signs
have escaped me, even when I see them. But my mayor does not have to resort to
signs when she can come right out and state what is on her mind, unless she
means to say, "where can I get some marijuana?" Very doubtful. Very doubtful.


Bob Carney Jr. November 8, 2014 10:52 p.m.

I attached a screen scape of a photo from the Star Tribune, showing Hodges and
the other person (can't remember the name, I'm not going to try to find it),
gesturing, in front of someone who has a camera.

It's been clear to me that the hand positions of the two people were
symmetrical, and they were holding their hands in a certain way.

But looking at the attached photo, it looks like they may simply be assisting
the person with the camera in framing a shot, either a still or a video.

The two upright thumbs, and the horizontal index fingers, form the bottom two
corners of a rectangular frame.

Take a look at the photo and see if this makes sense.

This explanation looks a lot more plausible to me than gang signs.

If this is what was going on, I still have two questions.

First, if that's what they were doing, why wasn't this obvious explanation
offered earlier?

Second, what was the Police Chief doing at a "get-out-the-vote" event?

betsy hodges.jpg 141.5kb


Jim McGuire November 8, 2014 11:08 p.m.

Why is it a question as to whether or not the mayor is flashing a known
gang sign? Seriously, I fail to understand why anyone would ask. I've seen
a number of pictures since the (cough) "story" broke of the mayor making
exactly the same gesture. She points at people in pictures with her,
apparently, all the time.

Suddenly it's a (cough) "story."

Is it a gang sign in all the other pictures in which the mayor is pointing?

The only reason that it's suddenly a (cough) "story" is because the person
she's pointing it is a young black man and is also pointing at her.

The only thing sillier than the fact that the "story" ran in the first
place is that anyone anywhere is defending KSTP for running it. It's absurd
on its face.


[Editorial comment: At this point, much (but not all) of the discussion shifts to another thread, titled “KSTP gets earful on National Inquirer-like headline”, for two days. This was my mistake. An explanation is offered at the end of that thread. See the end of this web page.]


Bill McGaughey November 9, 2014 11:00 a.m. (on thread "KSTP gets earful on National Inquirer-like headline”)

Arthur Himmelman wrote: “I am beyond incredulous that some people believe Mayor Hodges would flash a gang sign.”

This suggests that the person or persons making this claim are completely unhinged. Since I am the person involved, let me try to explain.

I looked at the video in question and saw Mayor Hodges pointing a finger at
Navel Gordon with the thumb straight up while being photographed. Police
spokesmen said this was a gang sign. While I have no direct knowledge of this,
I do think police would be in a position to know what is or is not a gang sign.
It seems unlikely they would lie in this situation. Therefore, in my opinion,
the statement about the mayor flashing a gang sign is quite factual.

Why did she do this? The answer must come from the mayor herself; and she isnt
saying much. No, I don't think the mayor is a gang member. (No more straw man
arguments, please). My own guess is that she thought it was cool to be doing
this with a young black man. References to gangs are part of rap music and
todays youth culture. The mayor wanted to be hip. Thats my guess, anyhow.
Another possibility is that she had no idea it was a gang sign. If so, she
should say so.

In being photographed making a gang sign, the mayor owes some consideration to
law enforcement and also to city residents in crime-infested neighborhoods who
bear the brunt of gang violence. Would it be too much to ask Mayor Hodges to
apologize to these people for her insensitive behavior?

About KSTP-TV, I give them credit for airing real community issues instead of
sticking always with feel good news. To my knowledge, this station is also the
only one to hold candidate debates featuring all the candidates during election

You Minneapolis DFLers need to learn to engage in real discussion rather than
just trying to silence your opponent or boycott the deliverer of unwelcome
news. You're a one trick pony on the subject of race.


Arthur Himmelman November 9, 2014 3:07 p.m. (on thread "KSTP gets earful on National Inquirer-like headline”)

Mr. McGaughey believes that, because "police spokesmen" said Mayor Hodges was flashing a gang sign, and that "it seems unlikely they would lie in this
situation," in his opinion it is "quite factual" that this is what Mayor Hodges
did. If this is true, then Mayor Hodges not only flashed a gang sign, but is
also lying about it. And not simply lying when evidence is hard to find to
expose the lie, but doing so in the most public manner possible with the chief
of police as a witness who, not being a reliable police spokesperson according
to Mr. McGaughey's reasoning, thought it was an innocent gesture. Perhaps Mr,
McGaughey is correct. After all, 3% of scientists do not accept the reality of
global warming and many of our distinguished conservative political leaders
accept the validity of their views because "it seems unlikely they would lie in
this situation."

Sent from my iPad


Bill McGaughey November 9, 2014 3:58 p.m. (on thread "KSTP gets earful on National Inquirer-like headline”)

I'm not sure I understand why the mayor should have been lying. Was it because
she said she was pointing toward Navel Gordon? No, that was true. However,
the issue is whether the manner of pointing - the configuration of fingers and
thumb - was a gang sign. Two police spokesmen said it was. The question I have
raised is whether the mayor knew that she was making a gang sign. She has not
yet given an answer to that question.

The fact that the police chief, Janee Harteau, was standing near the mayor when
she was photographed is interesting. Did Harteau say that the mayor was not
making a gang sign? My only information is that Harteau declined to comment.
But could you really expect that Harteau would make statements detrimental to
her boss? Harteau and Hodges are politically joined at the hip. The
significance of chief Harteau being present at the gang-sign-flashing event is
that it may further alienate her from the police rank and file.

Himmelman's reference to global warming has no place in this discussion except
to insinuate that I might be part of a lunatic fringe. I am not, Mr.
Himmelman. Stick with the argument and leave the character attacks behind.

This incident, trivial in itself, may significantly affect the relationship
between Minneapolis police officers and the city administration, which includes
the chief. The officers need assurance that the city is behind them when they
combat gang violence.


Debra Ramage November 9, 2014 5:10 p.m. (on thread "KSTP gets earful on National Inquirer-like headline”)

Bill, I grant you good intentions in your arguments. But as is often the
case, I believe your judgement may be a bit clouded on these issues of
race, crime, authority and believeability. I will parse your statements
from the bottom of the letter up.

The incident is trivial in itself you say, but if it is believable that the
Mayor flashed a gang sign, with other extenuating circumstances I will go
into in a bit, then that's not trivial, is it? Yes, it probably will affect
the relationship between city hall and police, but it will not make a good
situation worse, it will make a bad situation worse. That last statement
" officers need assurance ..." just turns the whole thing on its head.

Officers are there to provide us, the city and the public, assurance, and
they don't. And if this retired officer really is speaking for the police,
we are right not to be assured. Because if he is speaking for the police,
and if what he says is simply a political attack and a load of bollocks,
then we are at grave risk every time we move our hands of being swept into
the fantasy gang units of Minneapolis. Our white skin no longer protects
us! (Sarcasm, in case it doesn't come through. I apologize for using
sarcasm in a serious argument.) (And I'm not saying that gangs and violence
are a fantasy, but that police often see them and it where they are not.
Like in youthful behavior, dark skin, innocent hand gestures.)

Arthur's reference to climate change was completely misinterpreted. Far
from characterizing you as a climate-denier, his argument relies on you NOT
being a climate-denier in an attempt to illustrate the trickiness of
appeals to authority.

And speaking of appeals to authority, yes, Chief Harteau was present when
Mayor Hodges was filmed and photographed. Yes, they are rather joined at
the hip, which is understandable. You and others have pointed out the to
you weird fact that Harteau has not offered a post-incident comment. My
weird fact is this: would not Harteau have said to her friend, ally, and
boss, "Hey, Bets, you might not want to make that pointy gesture. You may
not know that that's a gang sign. And maybe don't hug that possible gang
member so closely either." Does not the fact that that didn't happen
(evidence on video) indicate that the Chief of Police, no less, saw nothing
gang-loving in the entire incident?

This incident is not trivial. It is a minor thing that blew the lid off a
major thing. There are parallels between the way the police treat Mayor
Hodges and the way the Republicans in Congress treat the President. There
are parallels between the way right-leaning news outlets cover minor
incidents - hand gestures, raising a coffee cup to an honor guard. These
are old-school white male bastions of power, and they cannot accept that
their boss is a wise-cracking black man, or a cute, harmless-looking white
woman married to a black man, or a Native-American out lesbian. And the
news outlets know there are plenty of basically well-meaning non-racist
white people who nevertheless have a hard time negotiating these minefields
and are thus easy fodder for crazy, inflammatory attacks on the false
leaders such as Obama, Harteau, and Hodges.

Debs (didn't vote for Obama in 2012, Hodges was my reluctant 3rd choice,
but somebody has to say these things)


Wizard Marks November 9, 2014 5:34 p.m.

The only interesting thing about this whole fracas is the film clip posted
above. What fabulous young people we have among us. If the mayor gave them a
gesture (not a middle finger) then good on her.

Go young people! Learn, get out the vote, do the do, and good on you!!!


David Tilsen November 9, 2014 6:55 p.m. (on thread "KSTP gets earful on National Inquirer-like headline”)
This is a web site that lists known gang signs.

Note that the pointing is not listed, but the peace sign is, as is the OK sign,
both of which I have used for decades, and will continue to use. Presumably
gang members might also "wave" at each other.

Just sayin.


Bill McGaughey November 10, 2014 3:30 p.m. (on thread "KSTP gets earful on National Inquirer-like headline”)

I agree with Debra that there are lots of abuses with police interpretations of
gang activity and police attitudes in general. I have identified some of them
in previous postings. Nevertheless, we depend upon the police and it would be
best to build a relationship based on trust and respect between the community
and police. If police feel that the public holds them in contempt (as
illustrated by the mayor's flashing a gang sign in a posed photograph), how do
you think that will influence police behavior? I think it will become worse.

Many postings on this thread imply that the mayor's finger configuration was
not a gang sign. Maybe only a small percentage of Minneapolis police
(including the head of the police federation) believe that it was. One way of
getting at the truth of this matter is to show the photograph to chief Harteau
and ask her: Is this or is it not a gang sign? Might some enterprising
journalist undertake such an inquiry?




Scott Vreeland November 10, 2014 4:08 p.m.

I am curious about who asked Michael Quinn to comment.

He is even more critical of the Mayor than Delmonico.

He is the author of "Walking with the Devil" about the code of silence in
the MPD

Unlike KSTP, I am always interested in the backstory. Not just what people
say, but why they say it.

For someone who teaches ethics and is ostensibly concerned with bad
behavior of MPD officers, you would think that he would have a better
understanding of how he got played for political purposes. You would think that
hewould be on the other side of this story and that he would take the time to
view the longer video and talk about the moral courage to admit when you get
things wrong.

From his website:

Moral Body Armor - Weaving Our Own Protection, One Thread At A Time.
I hate it when I’m asked to follow my own advice about ethics! It’s easy,
in retrospect, to talk about some of the tough ethical choices I made
during my career. And I know I have minimized a lot of the bad choices I made
in favor of a more acceptable memory; so be it. Still, there are plenty that
bother me to this day. There was the young Native American burglar who was
also stealing cars. I really showed him how tough I was, punching him
while he was in handcuffs, thinking I was going to get some sort of useful
information from him. The only one who was tough was him. He never said a

He taught me something that night. He taught me that I was weak because I
didn’t have the guts to not punch him after my training officer told me to.
I’m sure I taught that young man something too, that cops are brutal and
stupid. There is probably no way that kid will ever change his attitude
about cops after what I did that night. His family probably feels the same

There was one change that took place that night, in me. I swore I would
never do something like that again. I felt terrible. I made plenty of other
mistakes in later years but punching someone in handcuffs just to hurt them
was not one of them. Almost thirty years later, as I sat down to write a
book on police ethics I thought about that incident and I wanted to write
something that would help new officers make better choices than I made. So I
wrote about the importance of stepping in and stopping another officer when
their conduct gets out of line. It makes a lot more sense to me than going
to internal affairs or civilian review with relatively minor offenses. But I
had forgotten how hard it can be to take that step, till recently.

I was working with this deputy for the first time. He seemed full of energy
and ready and willing to take on the world but he was treating prisoners
like shit and clearly making them angry. It was a small thing really. The
prisoners were hardcore gang members. They’d been through the system before
and it was no surprise to them that the cellblock was cold. They knew before
we closed the door that blankets were available so they asked for them,
respectfully, if not politely. My partner’s response was “Does this look
like the Marriott Hotel to you?” Then my partner walked them into
their cell without the blankets. His response to their request for blankets
surprised me but not as much as my own reluctance to say something to him
right then and there. I wasn’t going to say anything in front of the
prisoners, but here was a situation exactly as I outlined in my book, a minor
incident with a chance to step in and make a small difference and yet I

Don’t get me wrong. I am not in the business of making life comfortable
for gang members that are on their way to their next prison cell. But making
prisoners angry just because you can is an officer safety issue. I didn’t
want them acting out their anger on me or someone else just because my
partner felt it was necessary to demonstrate that he was in control.

A minute or two later I got the blankets out and was walking them back to
the prisoners when my partner started chipping on me about being nice to
criminals. I responded by reminding him that they were more likely to nap or
at least lay down and relax if they had a blanket to keep warm. His response
was unpleasant.

A couple days later I am in the courtroom with the same
partner and once again he is going out of his way to make a prisoner unhappy.
By now I have had a couple days to think about what I should have said to
him the first time we worked together and I go through a short litany of
why making a prisoner angry, just for the sake of making him angry,
potentially compromises another officer’s safety. His response was ambiguous
at best but I think I might have reached him on some level. At the very least he
knows what to expect from me. But the question I had to ask myself was, “Why
wasn’t I able to challenge him immediately when the bad behavior first
occurred?” That’s what I advocate when I speak about moral courage yet, when
it came time, I hesitated. I was reminded that it’s hard to step in like
that, even on relatively minor issues.

Maybe that’s the problem. On big, clear-cut, in your face, go-to-jail-lose-your-job issues the decision to step
in is almost made for you. It’s the smaller ones that we feel safe walking
away from. We can rationalize that they are no big deal because no one is
getting hurt and it’s just a whole lot easier if we don’t confront our
coworkers.But we don’t develop moral courage from walking away.

Like the bodyarmor you wear with your uniform your moral body armor is made up of many very small threads, woven in a special pattern, a pattern that you weave andcreate each and every time you take on one of the small issues. And
likewise, every time you walk away a thread goes missing from the pattern and
you are the weaker for it. Doing the right thing is hard and it can be
especially hard with the smaller issues because they are the easiest to walk
away from. Think about the pattern you are weaving with your life. Weave a
pattern that matters.


Bill Kahn November 10, 2014 7:59 p.m. (on thread "KSTP gets earful on National Inquirer-like headline”)

Simply the fact that Bill McGaughey changed the wording (eliminated "tabloid")
of the topic thread title--thus starting his own new thread to replace the
original one started by Steven Clift--diminishes his arguments whether you find
them reasonable or ridiculous; I think a person who respects the mission of
this forum would not do such a thing unless such a post began a substantially
new thread of discussion (not true of this one). Scott Vreeland's thoughtful
post in the original thread amplifies the problem with McGaughey's, here.

This thread should be finished as well. Respond to posts in the original


Bill McGaughey November 10, 2014 8:34 p.m. (on thread "KSTP gets earful on National Inquirer-like headline”)

I'm sorry I changed the title of this thread. Bill Kahn - typical of him -
finds malicious or deceptive intent.

The facts are these: I would normally type my message and then hit the button
at the bottom right. However, this did not work. The button was gray instead
of green so nothing posted. I've contacted the system administrator to try to
correct this.

It was 5:00 a.m. when I posted and I may not have been fully awake. I thought
the name of the tabloid was National Inquirer, not Enquirer. Enquire is an
archaic form of inquire - someone who asks questions. I used the "start a new
topic" feature where you type the name of the thread, thinking that if I typed
the same title as before it would continue the previous discussion. However, I
was careless not to double-check the title. So it started a new thread.

Yes, I'm agreeable to posting to the original thread. Sorry for the confusion.


(back to the original thread)

Bill McGaughey November 11, 2014 4:41 p.m.

Scott Vreeland writes that Michael Quinn, a former police officer who has been
critical of the MPD, was played for political purposes when he criticized Mayor
Hodges for the gang-sign incident. I think Quinn might have criticized the
mayor because he thought she exercised poor judgment in being photographed
making this sign. Vreeland offers no arguments related to the incident itself
but merely jumps to the conclusion that a morally sensitive person such as
Quinn could not possibly have taken the position that he did. Fill in the
blanks, please. Until convincing evidence is presented to the contrary, I side
with Quinn and not with Vreeland in this matter.

Since the gang-sign incident has been viewed almost entirely through the prism
of race, let me present a hypothetical situation that might be analogous to
that of the mayor.

Suppose that in 1942 or 1943 President Roosevelt had posed with a young man of
German descent for a photograph in which he made a Nazi salute. The young man
had formerly belonged to the German American Bund although he no longer did.
FDR and this young man saluted each other Nazi-style. Some military officers
complained that the commander-in-chiefs behavior undercut the war effort. The
Nazis could use the photo for propaganda purposes. A news magazine picked up
the story.

What would be the attitude of posters on this forum toward such a situation?
Would it be to condemn the news magazine for running the story because it
showed anti-German or some other bias?

President Roosevelt was obviously not a Nazi. Why, then, would he give a Nazi
salute in a posed photograph? Maybe he was just clowning around. Maybe the
Nazi salute was an expression of sarcasm although the context does not support
that interpretation. The reasonable conclusion would be that the President had
a lapse in judgment. He should have been more sensitive to the feelings of the
men in uniform who put their lives on the line fighting Nazi tyranny. No doubt
the public would have requested that the President give an explanation.

Now, of course, the above incident did not happen. FDR would have been too
conscious of his responsibilities as President to have let himself be
photographed giving a Nazi salute. The situation with the mayor is analogous in
that violent crime, often involving gangs, is one of the most serious problems
that the city has. There are officers who put their lives on the line trying
to deal with this situation. She should have been more respectful of them.

Mayor Hodges should apologize for her lapse in judgment or else give a
convincing explanation to the public for what she did. Don't hold your breath.

And don't hold your breath expecting the bulk of posters on this forum - the DFL
herd - to hold public officials to account for questionable behavior if the
racial or gender demographics do not support it. Everything these days is
viewed through the lens of political correctness. Objective discussion becomes
increasingly problematic.


Jim McGuire November 11, 2014 4:52 p.m.

Nice try, Bill. Let us try to explain this one more time. There is no photo
of the mayor flashing a gang sign. There's no photo of Navell Gordon
flashing a gang sign. The only known evidence of Navell Gordon being in a
gang is a slanderous Twitter post by Jay Kolls referring to him as a
" gangbanger."

As to Michael Quinn's motives - I have no idea. Certainly the police are
unhappy with the mayor. That certainly may be part of it. It may also be
that Michael Quinn really believes that Navell Gordon is flashing a gang
sign rather than the obvious - he's merely pointing at the other person in
the photo. If true, I find it very disturbing that even an ex-police
officer so quickly jumps to a potentially dangerous conclusion about
someone's motives in an innocuous situation.

I really don't understand your allegory about FDR. Since no one in the
photo in question flashed a gang sign. And importantly, I say NO ONE -
again, neither the mayor nor Navell Gordon are doing anything more than
pointing at each other. Since NO ONE in the photo flashed a gang sign I
fail to see the purpose of your "what if" story about FDR using a Nazi


Connie Sullivan November 11, 2014 5:11 p.m.

Bill McGaughey must begin to understand that most people who have viewed
not only the biased television "report" that spawned this controversy but
read the materials that contained the whole video from the get-out-the-vote
group know that the Mayor of Minneapolis was not making a gang sign.

Bill can repeat and repeat here and elsewhere that she was. But she wasn't
(anyone really following this issue on-line discussions knows how foolish
the gang-sign assertion is, how contrary to reality).

And, given that she wasn't making a gang sign, the rest of the content of
Bill's posts here are simply an angry attack on the mayor.

i hope that at some point, Bill gives this up.


Alan Muller November 11, 2014 5:42 p.m.

Bill, I have been restraining myself on this, but you are
perpetuating a smear with posts like this. One can understand
initially believing the "story," maybe (??), that was reported as
fact in a major media outlet, but there has been more than enough
info presented on this list to establish that Mayor Hodges was not
intentionally using a gang-connected gesture. To carry on pushing
something demonstrated to be untrue raises the question of
intentional misrepresentation.....


Frederica Scobey November 11, 2014 6:48 p.m.

Agreed. The assertion that Mayor Hodges flashed a gang sign is

KSTP seems to be following the lead of the cable channels that try to
convince us that our founding fathers' were Masons who sought to
design our country to Masonic ideals. They omit the fact that those
ideals were the ideals of the Enlightenment. Not to mention mermaids
and yetis.


Wizard Marks November 11, 2014 7:09 p.m.

Hey, Fredda, mermaids and yetis are real as are leprechauns, culychauns,
fairies, pixies, trolls, selkis, and tommy knockers. Sheesh!


Peter Fleck November 11, 2014 7:25 p.m.

Even AM-1500's Joe Soucheray thinks the police interpretation of the sign is
ridiculous and said so when he had Kolls on for an interview:

Last night on 5 Eyewitness News Jay had a story that suggests the mayor of
Minneapolis, pictured with a felon who’s not in prison, [was displaying gang
signs]. Some police officers are able to convince themselves that was a gang
sign, which I personally find preposterous,” said Soucheray, setting the stage
for listeners before saying to Kolls, “Now begin. … "


[C.J.: Don Shelby points the finger at signs of Jay Kolls getting "worked” by police sources CJ is the Star Tribune’s gossip columnist.

Article by: C.J. , Star Tribune Updated: November 11, 2014 - 1:19 PM

The Twittersphere and radio waves mopped the floor with Jay Kolls’ November sweeps story suggesting Mayor Betsy Hodges was throwing out gang signs in a photo with a citizen.
There were clues everywhere that Kolls’ Thursday story was off-base, even with this juicy on-the-record quote from a police union official who has issues with the mayor: “Is she going to support gangs in the city or cops?”

As a member only of the journalism gang, I am no authority on signs. But it looked to me as though Hodges and Navell Gordon, a Neighborhoods Organizing for Change canvasser, were awkwardly gesturing at each other in the way that Isaac Washington shot (if that’s not too street of a word) his pointers around the “Love Boat.” I said that on Twitter Friday morning before Kolls’ story went viral with #pointergate and social media fans delighting in posting pictures of celebrities and at least one adorable beagle puppy “pointing.”

Friday afternoon I started trying to get a comment from Kolls, who I expect is loving the attention despite the heavy dose of ridicule. Kolls has not gotten back to me, but on Friday he did call into Joe Soucheray’s 1500-AM ESPN show, which like KSTP-TV, is part of Hubbard Broadcasting.

“ Last night on 5 Eyewitness News Jay had a story that suggests the mayor of Minneapolis, pictured with a felon who’s not in prison, [was displaying gang signs]. Some police officers are able to convince themselves that was a gang sign, which I personally find preposterous,” said Soucheray, setting the stage for listeners before saying to Kolls, “Now begin. … ”

Kolls said the story came from “sources in the metro gang unit. It is according to law enforcement, Minneapolis PD and otherwise, a gang sign for the ‘Stick up Boys,’ ” he explained. Soucheray, no fan of Hodges’, interrupted.

“ Then that gang needs a new sign,” Soucheray said. “Because that might be one of the oldest gestures in humanity.”

KFAN’s Dan Barreiro described Kolls’ story as “garbage.” At one point Barreiro was yelling on the air, about Channel 5 blowing the story out of proportion with the help of “a couple of cop officials. That’s a pretty bleeping serious charge, in effect saying whether she intended to or not she’s trying to be sympathetic to gang members, putting cops in harm’s way like she’s picking the gang members over the cops. There may be legitimate grievances that cops have, but you’ve blown your cover and your chance to get people to listen more closely if this is the thin reed you’re going to build on to say, ‘We’ve got a serious problem in the city of Minneapolis.’”

Back on Twitter, one of my favorite comments came from @jillybee72: “I for one am proud of Mayor Betsy Hodges. Not a lot of 45-year-old white ladies have what it takes to join a gang. #pointergate”

Also on Twitter was this post from Ashley Shelby, aka @millcitywriters: “I miss old-school Twin Cities journalists — who don’t betray their alliances on Twitter by insulting viewers and critics. #pointergate”

I tweeted her back: “Who’s your Daddy?”

“ A better journalist than Jay Kolls,” she responded.

Later I caught up with Ashley’s daddy, retired WCCO-TV investigative reporter and anchor Don Shelby, who was honored Saturday by the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health.

“ It’s just my opinion but I think Jay, who’s a friend of mine, got caught up in a controversy, and he was worked a little bit by various sides and took a story that had marginal value on its face and tried to turn it into a bigger story. In my considered opinion, I couldn’t understand the conclusion by the police officers [including police union president] John Delmonico, a friend of mine, that this endangered the police officers. Even if it were a gang sign, I don’t believe it endangers police officers. I think there’s a political issue there but not endangerment of police officers, the position of the story, the reason the police were upset. I would say if it is a legitimate gang sign, then the only person it endangers is Betsy Hodges, by aligning herself with one gang over another. I don’t see that there is any gang sign being flashed at all. I’m not the world’s greatest expert on gang signs, but I know most of the gang signs in Minneapolis and that doesn’t seem to be one. It is a symbol, of course, but also a symbol of a person just pointing at another person. I’ve had my picture taken 100 times, doing exactly that.”

And now some real footwork

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau was one of the judges at Saturday’s “Let’s Dance” gala for CornerHouse, an organization that supports child abuse victims.
Harteau waved when she walked by me; I did not see anybody pointing at her. ]

And with a Nazi analogy, we have once again proven Godwin's Law!'s_law

[“Godwin's law (or Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies)[1][2] is an Internet adage asserting that "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1"[2][3]— that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism.”]


Bill McGaughey November 11, 2014 8:54 p.m.

Yes, as Connie Sullivan suggests, maybe people are tired of this discussion;
and, yes, I will give it up. My arguments have fallen on largely deaf ears.
This will be my last posting on the topic. The Chinese have a phrase: singing
to a cow

As for Jim McGuires assertion that there is no photo of the mayor flashing a
gang sign, I would invite you to view the video embedded first in a posting by
Steven Clift and then in one by Bill Kahn. (the third and fourth postings on
this thread) This statement precedes the video: And an awesome video about
change in the community that actually catches the photo moment

The video clip labelled #FreeTheVote is three minutes and five seconds long.
If you go 34 seconds into this clip, there is a scene lasting 5 seconds in
which the mayor and Navel Gordon are posing for a photograph taken by a female
photographer standing to the left in which both subjects are making pointing
signs with their fingers and thumb that have been interpreted as gang signs.
At least, certain credible police spokesmen have said that the mayor and her
companion were displaying gang signs. (As I suggested earlier, ask chief
Harteau if their interpretation is correct.)

I hope this disposes of Jim McGuires claim that the mayor and her companion in
the photo were not displaying gang signs. Evidence to the contrary is
contained in the above-mentioned video.

Now, I agree that there are plenty of police abuses but this has little to do
with the gang-sign incident.

Alan Muller accuses me of perpetuating a smear with posts like this and
possibly being guilty of intentional misrepresentation because, against the
grain of most postings, I continue to declare that the police have a legitimate
grievance here.

Baloney! I have been forthright and specific in my arguments. I am
representing, not misrepresenting, what I believe to be real. Mr. Muller, you
cannot intimidate me into silence. Not guilty. I will not kowtow to you. I
will, however, suspend further postings on this topic for reasons given above.

Regarding Peter Flecks post, Godwins Law means comparison of someone with
Hitler or with the Nazis. I did not do this. The focus was upon a purely
hypothetical FDR or, rather, what might be a similar situation to the gang-sign

Joe Soucheray is entitled to his opinion. So are CJ and Don Shelby. But the
preponderance of herd opinion does not make something true.


Jim McGuire November 11, 2014 9:38 p.m.

Bill, I've already seen the video. No one in that video flashes a gang
sign at any time. Thanks for referring to the evidence that proves that.


Bill Kahn November 11, 2014 10:56 p.m.

Don't know if it is my German Jewish heritage, Bill McGoughey's interpretation
of things not withstanding, but I am often the one who proves Godwin's Law on
this forum;-)

As long as McGoughey is using hypotheticals I'll jump on this particular
analogy bandwagon and take a turn from Scott Vreeland's thoughtful post
mentioning Michael Quinn's apparent departure from sanity, to a medical
explanation for him losing his mind. When watching the KSTP story, I could not
take my eyes from the top of Quinn's head and wondered if the irregular dark
growths there were cancerous. What if they were, say, melanomas? Melanoma
frequently metastasizes to the brain and this could account for a person's
departure from long held convictions arrived at through hard work and

The notion takes me from the ridicule this story deserves to a much sadder
place as I've watched many people die this way, people very close to me. I hope
that this is not one of Mr. Quinn's problems just as I hope any posts here
suggesting dementia have no medical explanation (yet they might).

KSTP, Jay Kolls, John Delmonico, and anyone else who is presenting anything
about this story as plausible has to stop now, get very, very real, ... or
perhaps get lost. I thank Mr. McGoughey for his willingness to stop; it shows
some good sense.

I think Minneapolis police officers need to seriously consider new union
leadership or new union representation and have thought so for a long, long
time; I hope this crapola makes the need more apparent to others, especially

The appearance of political payback from unions should also give folks pause.
Working people deserve everything that they can get from government and the
private sector at the bargaining table, but this sort of thing makes the need
for a clear line between politics and management/labor relations. These
ridiculous games have to stop.

I certainly don't mean to vilify anyone for any reason as we are all equal and
entitled to express any opinion we wish in this forum or any other, but when we
do, we must accept the consequences. There is a difference between ridicule and
vilification after all, but I suppose we should pursue a middle ground when
confronted with such horribly done journalism and the gullibility of folks who
buy it; there was a time when no one would ever consider doing a story like
this. To bow to China as McGaughey has, we are cursed to "live in interesting

Gang signs or cancer signs are certainly a part of all this, but not the part
McGoughey thinks. The divisions in the MPD and undermining of government and
our department by one side or the other for whatever reason have to stop
because they really are a cancer. We have enough to overcome from the kind of
deception and intrigue going on in our previous city governments, so let us nip
some in the bud. Hopefully, the fourth estate aside from KSTP News can give us
a hand.


Christopher Robin Zimmerman November 11, 2014 11:42 p.m.

No gang signs.

Confucius say: Perhaps it is the singer who is truly the cow.

(Also, Confucius say: when a bomb goes off in the middle of a herd of cows,
there will be udder destruction.)


Tony Hill November 12, 2014 5:20 a.m.

I will bet that FDR did in fact give the salute at some point. The so-called
Nazi salute dates to antiquity. It is also known as the Roman salute and was
how people in ancient Rome greeted each other. FDR was confined to a
wheelchair after 1921. Into recent history, at times when other people are
supposed to stand (e.g., flag passing by, judge entering courtroom), people who
cannot stand give the Roman salute. I will bet that FDR did too.

In the context of the current situation, prominent people should avoid doing
things that can be misinterpreted. Certain phrases have been excised from my
vocabulary because they can be misconstrued as meaning something sinister
(e.g., "weed" to refer to a cigarette; "hook up," as in "Let's hook up next
week and go over the budget").

A similar case occurred in 1986 when Gov. Rudy Perpich was accused of making
fun of his sign language interpreter. The governor's defenders said he was
merely talking with his hands, as was frequently his practice.


Jeff Skrenes November 12, 2014 2:29 p.m.

I would posit that the reason our mayor hasn't responded in exactly the way Mr.
McGaughey would like is that some accusations are so preposterous that a
point-by-point rebuttal only lends them undeserved credibility. "Pointergate,"
in my opinion, falls into that category.

As to where the racist charge fits in: First and foremost a significant number
of African-Americans are calling the story out for its racial undertones. And
I think people affected by such racism have a right to define what is offensive
and harmful to them.

And in any case, the manner in which Hodges is pointing in the photo is one
that she has employed in many other pictures floating around social media. So
when she points at someone with the thumb out, and the photo is taken with a
White person at a fancy gala, she wasn't flashing a gang sign then. But she
comes into north Minneapolis and strikes the same pose with a Black man and
suddenly it's a story.

About the only way this could have been a legitimate story is if the photo
surfaced on social media and people in north Minneapolis started to call her
out for an insensitive faux pas. Although there is a gang or clique here that
uses that gesture as their sign, that is not so prevalent as to be the dominant


[Editorial comment by Bill McGaughey:

Finally, after a long and difficult discussion, we have acknowledgment from a credible source - Jeff Skrenes, executive director of the Hawthorne Neighborhood Association in north Minneapolis - that “there is a gang or clique here that uses that gesture as their sign.” How prevalent that association is is a legitimate question.

Mayor Betsy Hodges could have avoided much of the controversy by saying she did not know she was making a gang sign when she posed for the photo or, if she did, by apologizing to Minneapolis police officers for her insensitivity. But, of course, she did not have to do any of this because “the herd”, as I call the DFL partisans on Minneapolis e-democracy forum and in the commercial media, treated the whole thing as an example of racist journalism practiced by KSTP-TV. The premise of its story was so “ridiculous” that no self-respecting person would want to dignify it with a straightforward response.

This is standard “progressive” procedure: Do not engage your opponent in reasoned discussion but, instead, silence him. Ridicule him, claim he is part of a lunatic fringe, let others in the herd trample him, but never, never give a direct and respectful answer to any of the issues raised.]


Emilie Quast, SE Como November 12, 2014 3:57 p.m.

I think John Tevlin covered the entire story very, very well. He added a
much needed, fact-backed shout-out for NOC

[Tevlin: Little nonprofit is feeling the love in wake of 'Pointergate'

Last week, few people had heard of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC). Then a silly television story dubbed “Pointergate,” in which police officers accused Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges of throwing gang signs at NOC employee Navell Gordon, hit the fan.

This week the little nonprofit in the heart of West Broadway is reaping the benefits of unintentional fame.

“ We’ve been flooded support from all over the world and definitely are feeling the love,” said Becky Dernbach, communications director for NOC. “We’ve received $4,000 or $5,000 in online donations. We’ve received messages of support to pass on to Navell from Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and France, among other places.”

The story, by KSTP-TV’s Jay Kolls, showed a photograph of the mayor and Gordon standing together and pointing at each other. Like people in photos often do these days.

Kolls found a retired cop and got city police union president John Delmonico to allege that the pointing was a gang sign used by the Stick Up Boys that jeopardized officers’ safety on the street. The report pointed out that Gordon has a criminal record, and insinuated he might have gang ties.

The allegation was so ludicrous that two reporters at the Star Tribune ignored it after it was pitched to one of them by someone in law enforcement. But Kolls, seeing a sensational story, bit.

Gordon has acknowledged his criminal past, but said NOC was part of his attempt to get his life straight. When the photo was taken, he was knocking on doors to persuade residents of north Minneapolis to vote, something he can’t do as a felon.

KSTP never mentioned that when the photo was taken, Gordon and Hodges were with another well-known public figure: Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau. The gang sign accusation was a rather bold personal attack in the union’s spitting match with the mayor.
It backfired horribly.

There are legitimate concerns to be raised about Hodges and Harteau. Both have been criticized in recent weeks for not being engaged enough in the community, and Harteau had to defend her frequent business trips out of state.

But in one dumb fell swoop, the police union launched a story that inadvertently showed both of them thoroughly engaged in community outreach, and made them sympathetic characters in a slapstick farce that received national mockery.

The story was so widely repudiated that I was surprised that the Stick Up Boys themselves didn’t hold a news conference to disavow connections to a middle-aged woman who likes to quote Garth Brooks on Twitter. That has to be embarrassing to any legitimate gangster.

In the end, the intended targets of gangstagate, Gordon and Hodges, looked reasonable and thoughtful and NOC got its message out to the nation. Probably not what the cops intended.

NOC has been around since 2010. It works to assure voting rights, appear at the Legislature on living wage and employment issues and spent time this year rallying support for better public transportation options in poor neighborhoods.

The recent attention “was really cool because when we do civil engagement work, it’s not always newsworthy,” said Dernbach.

According to the group’s website, there have been some successes. Though voter turnout was down 5 percent in Minnesota, it was up 6.5 percent in the Fifth Ward, where the NOC office is located. In the two precincts closest to the office, 13 percent more voters turned out than in 2010.

According to Dernbach, everyone from Rep. Keith Ellison, to “Daily Show” co-creator and comedian Lizz Winstead gave shoutouts for their work on social media. Even Grammy-winning musician John Legend and author and pundit Dan Savage criticized the KSTP story.

“ It’s been great to see the celebration of our civic engagement work through all this madness and resounding support for Navell,” said Dernbach.]


Connie Sullivan November 12, 2014 5:29 p.m.

A point to highlight from the Tevlin article: the Minneapolis Police Union
shopped this "story" to the Star Tribune, but the two reporters in question
refused it. The Police Department source continued shopping the "story"
around the Twin Cities until they got the TV station to go with it. This
was an attack on the Mayor, planted by Our Cops. Ick.

Good on the Strib!


Jonna Connelly November 12, 2014 5:40 p.m.

So who's Hitler in all this?

And can I point with my index finger or not?


Bill Kahn November 12, 2014 10:01 p.m.

One thing Tevlin did not mention was that the contract with the Police Officers
Federation of Minneapolis is up at the end of the year.

POFoM is sitting pretty [this is meant as irony].

I can think of a few things that belong in the new contract that good law
enforcement professionals could get behind.

How about a new union for Minneapolis Police Department officers before they
get started negotiating?

I know POFoM has been around for a long, long time, but there are other
options: Teamsters, Minnesota Public Employees Association, Minnesota Police
and Peace Officers Association, and possibly others.

POFoM President John Delmoncio wrote this open letter (first paragraph quoted)
to Mayor Hodges that bears scrutiny in the light of this FUBAR situation:>

Dear Mayor Hodges:

"Your statements in your open letter to “the communities of Minneapolis” and
in your community forums are repeated and personal slaps in the face to every
member of the Minneapolis Police Department. While you attempt to hide behind
the tired remark that “most officers are good, the problem is just a few bad
apples”, when you speak of the “culture of the Department” that is “on a
downward spiral and must be changed” you paint all officers with the same brush
since all of us are members of “that culture.” One does not need to be too
clever to understand that culture to which you refer is a culture in which
racism and brutality is condoned and ignored. While that may well be your
perception, it is a perception that is as malicious as it is false."

I guess the culture really is race neutral and peace loving given the equal
treatment of Navell Gordon and Mayor Hodges in 'Pointergate' [meant as more

I would be more sympathetic to the letter without this incident or any of the
videos, photos, and accounts of the thuggish behavior of some MPD officers I
have seen and heard of since I've lived here. It is a tough job, but too often
one hears or sees of those who fly off the handle.

Maybe Lt. Delmonico could retire and see if member driven reforms can change
things, whether the culture or simply the ham handed shenanigans of POFoM over
the years.

Remember this one (link below quote from article)?YOU ARE HERE
HOME <> ›> <>Councilmember says police union officials threatened him

Share this:>>>>December 4, 2006 //

UPDATED 3:06 pm - June 28, 2007

City Councilmember Ralph Remington (10th Ward) said Nov. 21 that he fears for
his safety after four members of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis
allegedly threatened him at an October meeting at Gigi's Caf.


Wizard Marks November 13, 2014 12:41 a.m.

This appeared in my inbox today: "You've probably heard that since last
Thursday, a KSTP story has been making national news with a story involving MFE partner, MN Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), a community organization based in Minneapolis – sadly it was not at all in a good way.

Leading up to this year's elections, NOC astonishingly knocked on 55,000 doors,
pledged 17,000 North Minneapolis residents to vote, and filled a record-number
of 600 volunteer shifts for their organization. Voter turnout increased in
North Minneapolis in a year where voter turnout across Minnesota decreased
through these efforts. What KSTP chose to report on was not about their
organizing efforts but an outrageous story accusing one of their lead
organizers, Navell Gordon, of flashing a gang sign with Minneapolis Mayor Betsy

Even with a wave of online criticism, other media outlets speaking out, and the
Southern Poverty Law Center calling this report “extremely racist” KSTP has
chosen to double down on the story and has refused to issue an apology for what
has been called #pointergate. This is entirely unacceptable and that’s why I’m
asking you to join NOC in calling on KSTP to apologize on air to Navell.

Navell was proud to knock doors in an effort to get people out to vote. He was
proud that the Mayor of Minneapolis was joining NOC to get people out to vote.
Even though Navell’s nonviolent criminal record doesn’t allow him to vote he is
working in his community and will soon be able to cast a ballot himself. We
should be applauding his efforts. The Mayor and Navell took a photo pointing at
each other while knocking on doors to increase voter turnout. Period.
KSTP needs to be accountable for their reporting. Add your name to NOC’s
petition and let them know you’re watching."

It's gone viral on the internet with other media outlets condemning KSTP for
stoopidity. Also, the group Neighborhoods for Community Change are getting
donations from all over the country.


[This ends the thread(s) posted to the Minneapolis e-democracy forum in the week between November 6 and November 13, 2014. Having promised not to post any more messages on the thread, I did not. However, I did send the following opinion article to the Star Tribune. It was not published.]


Pointergate: A dissenting view

Pointergate is a strange beast - a local television-news story whose backlash became the story. It began with a report by Jay Kolls on KSTP-TV that certain law-enforcement officials were objecting to Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and a young black man named Navell Gordon flashing a gang signs to each other in a staged photo taken during a voter-registration drive in north Minneapolis. It has continued as an outcry against KSTP for airing a “non-story” that has racist overtones.

My initial reaction was that the mayor, whose supervisory responsibilities include law enforcement, showed questionable judgment in allowing herself to be photographed making a gang sign. This was an insult to police officers charged with controlling gang violence.

How do we know that the particular finger configuration in the photo was a gang sign? Law enforcement said it was. A particular gang in north Minneapolis called “the Stick Up Boys” uses it as their sign. That much was clear. But there was more to the story. Did the mayor know that her hand gesture was a gang sign? If she did not, she could have declared the whole incident an innocent mistake and moved on. If she did, she owed the police force and the larger community an explanation.

Here is where the trail wanders off into that vast domain of Minnesota politics and culture called “racism”. No, some persons said, the mayor was just “pointing”. The gang-sign aspect was misinterpreted or irrelevant. KSTP-TV ran the story not to criticize the mayor but to link her young, black photo companion with crime. (It had mentioned his criminal record.) That is because KSTP is a racist station that likes to show the black community in a negative light. So the focus of the story shifted from the mayor to Navell Gordon, to the black community of north Minneapolis, and to white racism.

From here the story has morphed into the mayor’s accusation that the police-federation chief, John Delmonico, had shopped the story to KSTP in retaliation for the fact that she had criticized some of the “bad apples” in the Minneapolis police department and that contract negotiations were approaching. That led to a front-page discussion of Delmonico in the Star Tribune on November 14th including a comment from his predecessor to the effect that Delmonico has run out of new ideas and ought to retire. It has also led to suggestions that a campaign ought to be mounted to boycott KSTP or, better still, try to convince its advertisers to pull ads.

My own opinion is that mainstream political opinion in Minneapolis - a.k.a. “the DFL herd“ - has racism on the brain. Every political question is viewed through the prism of race. Racist this, racist that - this seems to be the only acceptable form of discussion. And it is whites primarily who embrace that point of view. The issue has little to do with actual people.

I myself believe that the Minneapolis police department badly needs reform. However, there is little interest in general proposals; the issue only gets traction when combined with allegations of racial discrimination.

This may be that the DFL needs to keep up the racial chatter to keep black voters in line. Their 90 percent monolith is what wins elections and keeps the whole structure intact. So, 150 years after race-based slavery was abolished, we’re still talking about that problem.

The other thing that strikes my attention is the tendency of mainstream political opinion not to answer argument with argument but, instead, to try to silence the person on the other side of the issue. His point of view is so beyond the pale that it ought not even be expressed. Silence Delmonico by nudging him into retirement. Silence KSTP by yanking its ads. Silence or ridicule anyone who does not conform to the dominant opinion.

In conclusion, political liberals in Minnesota, who were once a beacon to the rest of the nation in the era of Humphrey and McCarthy, have for many years followed a downward trajectory in terms of intellectual and moral integrity. With the “pointergate” scandal, they may have hit a new low.

[The Pointergate story quickly faded as the next issue - the Ferguson grand jury's decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown - came along on November 24th. Because this was again being treated as a case of racism rather than police error or misconduct, I decided not to take part in the protest activities in Minneapolis. I also started the following thread. My statement drew only one response so I decided not to continue.]



I'm going over to the other side


Bill McGaughey November 25, 2014, 7:45 p.m.

Having made a long and unsuccessful effort to have the Minneapolis police
department do something to prevent what happened to Terrance Franklin and Ivan
Romero, I may have come across to some as a cop hater; but I’m not. I do,
however, think that the relationship between the Minneapolis police department
and the citizens they serve could be greatly improved. I also think that chief
Harteau, who is a publicity hound, is not up to this job.

I differ from many who took part in this discussion in thinking that the issue
is police attitudes and procedures in general rather than racism within the
department. Racism is someone’s thought. The focus should instead be on
police behavior. The police were not wrong to kill Terrance Franklin because
he was a black man but because he was a human being. If the politics could be
removed, we would be farther along toward a solution.

The “Pointergate” scandal has confirmed in my mind that we are on the wrong
track. Yes, the mayor was “pointing” but she was pointing in a way that the
police said was a gang sign. It shows the depravity of the liberal-left DFL
community to refuse to look at that possibility. It wants only to see racism.
Mayor Hodges declined to respond to the KSTP reporter’s inquiry before airing
the story. All she would do is later accuse the station of racism to cheering

I’m tired to this. If we want to change the way that the Minneapolis police
deal with people in this city, we need first to show the police some respect.
No, it was not OK for the mayor to flash gang signs in a posed photo. Yes, that
was what the KSTP story was originally about.

Now we have the grand jury’s refusal to indict Darren Wilson for the murder of
Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. This, again, is being ramped up as a
racist incident. It is certainly an example of policing that went wrong. Could
it not be treated that way? I will not be lured into an anti-racist crusade
when the object should be to get the police to change their ways.

It may not just be the police who are at fault. Apparently in Missouri state
law allows police officers to use lethal force against crime suspects who are
fleeing the scene. That is wrong; and the fault here lies with the legislature
and the governor who signed that particular piece of legislation.

And so, while I recognize it is hard these days to motivate people for
political causes, racism accusations seem to work as a motivator, and violence
gets media attention, I will be sitting out the Ferguson protests today.


Anthony Hansony November 25, 2014, 8:39 p.m.

Bill Im sorry but that wasnt a gang sign in any book. It was propaganda from
lying cops who hate a mayor who said she would be tuff on them. I agree its
not all about race, but race plays a big part. Just compare the downtown
police presence on a night when say Paul McCartney plays at Target Field vs the
presence when Little Wayne plays at a small club. You will see about twice as
many officers for Wayne despite no legitimate reason other than him being a
black preformer. I watched both recent visits of both stars and as the mostly
black crowd walked passed the police while leaving little Wayne officers
decided to push into the crowd horses and all, forcing people off the sidewalks
and into the light rail tracks. Stepping on people, including myself, and
eliciting anger. Why did they do this? Because it was a black crowd and they
wanted to piss people off to get a reaction and make some arrests. Post Paul
McCartney police minded their business and let the mostly white crowd happily
walk down the street. I will be at the protest today at 4:30 at the police
station on Lake and Minnehaha with the rest of the people who are fed up with
the growing police state, racist issue or not. We cant be complacent with this
anymore. I see cops in Minneapolis break laws far more often than any other
category of people and Im tired of it and the way they we hold them on a
pedestal like they do something good for us. They are doing nothing about
human trafficking (a massive issue in Minneapolis), and they prevent nothing.
They only create crime to keep their own tax payments coming in. They harass
peaceful protests all the time, and they waste millions of tax dollars. They
are a criminal enterprise that destroys justice. Enough!



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