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Cop running against socialist Minneapolis City Council member Aisha Chughtai instigates attack at nominating convention

By staff

Stand with Aisha Chughtai against right wing attacks!

Aisha Chughtai.

Minneapolis, MN – At the Minneapolis Ward 10 Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) party convention on Saturday, May 13, current socialist City Councilmember Aisha Chughtai, along with her campaign volunteers and delegates, were subject to an attack by her electoral opponent, who is a cop, and his campaign operatives. Video of the incident went viral and has become a national news story.

Chughtai is the incumbent councilwoman who was elected in 2021. She comes out of the labor movement and is an immigrant rights activist. Chughtai has led the fight against Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s inhumane approach to homelessness; she’s a leader on the city council around police accountability, community control and housing justice and is a consistent voice for people’s movements in the Minneapolis. This has put her on the opposite side of some of the wealthiest and most powerful forces in the city.

Chughtai’s opponent, Nasri Warsame, is a “community service officer,” which means he’s a cop. Warsame’s main campaign theme so far is to support the police. But despite Warsame’s ‘law and order’ rhetoric, his campaign’s attack turned the convention into chaos as some of his operatives assaulted multiple supporters of Chughtai and caused the convention to be hastily ended before an endorsement could be voted on. In procedural votes earlier in the day, it was clear Councilmember Chughtai had enough delegates to win 60% of the vote and therefore win DFL endorsement. The DFL is the name of the Democratic Party in Minnesota, as a result of a merger in the 1940s between the Democratic Party and the Farmer Labor Party.

The Warsame campaign’s attack came several hours into the convention, as Councilmember Chughtai came to the stage along with supporters to give her nomination speech. But the entirety of the convention was contentious as the Warsame campaign packed the meeting with non-voting guests, tried various procedural votes to get a large number of Chughtai’s delegates removed, repeatedly accused the convention organizers of cheating without saying how, bullied the neutral Somali translator until they were able to replace him with their own translator, tried to get non-delegates onto the delegate floor, and more.

After several hours of tensions, things boiled over as Chughtai was about to start her nomination speech. Before she could start speaking, Warsame’s campaign operatives started yelling and booing, then led their delegates to storm the stage, physically assaulting many of Chughtai’s supporters and threatening Chughtai herself as they took over the stage, yelling at the convention conveners and accused them of cheating, and physically harming the two sergeants-at-arms who they had been harassing all day. The fact was simply that Chughtai had more delegates than Warsame which she had gained through organizing a base of support throughout all Ward 10 neighborhoods for her progressive agenda. Warsame’s campaign refused to accept that reality and tried to take over the convention by force.

In the face of this unprovoked attack, Chughtai’s campaign team moved in a calm and disciplined way to lead their delegates out of the auditorium to deescalate the situation, bringing their delegates and supporters to a locked room while being pursued by some angry Warsame delegates. Conflict and chaos to get the convention shut down was only in Warsame’s interest as he didn’t have the votes to win the looming nomination vote that would have come after Chughtai and Warsame gave their speeches.

The purpose of the convention was for precinct-based delegates to vote on which candidate, if any, would receive the DFL party endorsement for November’s Ward 10 city council election. Ward 10 is a multinational and largely working-class area of Minneapolis where 80% of residents are renters. City council elections in Minneapolis are non-partisan, but an endorsed candidate gets access to the party’s resources that the other candidates don’t have.

In the aftermath of Saturday’s attack on Chughtai, her campaign released a statement that in part read, “This happened because they knew that the Ward 10 community was once again behind us and we were going to win — over 60% of the delegates in the room were identified to be supporting us. Because we’ve shown the wealthiest folks in this city, and the politicians they’ve bought, that the people of this city have the power to make real change and build the community we deserve. That’s why they’re afraid of us. That’s why they stormed at us.”

Soon after the convention was ended by the Warsame campaign’s orchestrated chaos, Warsame put out social media posts and statements that were a complete mockery of the reality that hundreds of people witnessed in person and hundreds of thousands of people have now seen in video clips taken by delegates that went viral online. Then they did a press conference Wednesday where they continued to make wild allegations that aren’t backed up by any of the video evidence from the convention. Warsame claimed to be the victim of cheating and violence, the opposite of the reality everyone could plainly see.

Some unions and elected officials put out statements and wrote social media posts supporting Chughtai, and denouncing the Warsame campaign’s attack on Chughtai and her supporters. At first DFL Party Chair Ken Martin, who has not been friendly to progressives, put out a vague statement of concern without naming who was responsible for what happened. But then under growing pressure, he put out a clear statement blaming the Warsame campaign for attacking Chughtai, and calling an emergency meeting of the state party committee, promising swift action. That meeting of the DFL State Executive Committee happened on Thursday, at which they banned Nasri Warsame from ever seeking the DFL Party’s endorsement. It’s still unclear whether the Ward 10 convention will be reconvened to vote on whether to endorse Chughtai or issue no endorsement.

As this story has gained national and even international media attention, much of the coverage has distorted the essence of what happened: a right-wing candidate who is a cop, Nasri Warsame, orchestrated an attack on a socialist and Muslim woman, Aisha Chughtai and her supporters. Instead, the corporate media’s dominant narrative has been to report it as “chaos” devoid of political clarity, implicating both sides rather than accurately reporting it as right-wing violence aimed at the left.

While electoral politics are not the path to socialism, they are an arena of the people’s struggle where working-class and oppressed people can fight to win what can be won to improve our lives within the capitalist system and to expose the oppressive nature of the system. Socialists who succeed in electoral struggles, especially those who are oppressed nationalities and those who are women, face frequent threats and attacks, like what Councilmember Chughtai is currently facing. The people's movements must stand with socialists who continue to stand with the movement after being elected and come under attack from right-wing forces.

#MinneapolisMN #Elections #AishaChugtai