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This mayor says she wasn’t throwing gang signs with a convicted felon

The police said the mayor ‘should have known better’.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change employee Navell Gordon gesture while they knock on doors to get out the vote in north Minneapolis.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change employee Navell Gordon gesture while they knock on doors to get out the vote in north Minneapolis.
Image: AP

THE MAYOR OF Minneapolis has hit out against reports that she was flashing a gang sign in a photo that has quickly gained traction online.

In a blog post the mayor says she was pointing at a man helping in a voting campaign.

Pointing the finger

KSTP-TV aired a report quoting the head of the Minneapolis police union saying that the photo of Mayor Betsy Hodges and a community activist, who are pointing a finger at each other with their thumbs raised, shows the pair flashing a known gang sign.

The report was swiftly criticised on social media, with hundreds of tweets ridiculing the report or calling it racist. Many show photos of US presidents, Pope Francis and even Cookie Monster using similar hand gestures, under the hashtag #Pointergate.

It wasn’t long before it appeared on The Daily Show with John Stewart:

Source: THE DAILY SHOW/YouTube

Writing on her blog, the Hodges said that local news station ran a story that the pointing of our fingers constituted gang signs, and that the photo undermined the morale of the officers in the Minneapolis Police Department, and that participating in the photo constituted poor judgement on her part.

The head of the Minneapolis Police Federation — the union that represents Minneapolis police officers — made a comment publicly to that effect. He said, “She should know better” and asked, “Is she on the side of the cops or the gangs?”As one of the two people pointing in the photo, I’ve tried to understand what the head of the police union thinks I should do, or not do…

She added:

…Maybe the head of the police union would like me to stop pointing altogether for the safety of the community. If that were truly his concern, that my pointing constitutes gang activity, then his outrage would have been sparked long, long ago. Because as the internet has documented in great detail, I point. I point a lot. Lots of people point. The President. Bill Clinton. Stephen Colbert. Babies. It is the earliest form of human communication. I’m not going to stop pointing.

KSTP News Director Lindsay Radford stood by the report today. She issued a statement saying law-enforcement sources, whom she didn’t name, alerted the station to the photo and said it could jeopardise officers’ safety or their work on the street, “especially given the recent increase in gang violence.”

Conviction

Hodges said when she meets people, she doesn’t know if they have ever been arrested for or convicted of embezzlement, or domestic assault, or shoplifting, or murder, or burglary, or driving under the influence, gun or drug possession, or too many parking tickets.

“I have no way of knowing, nor do I ask. Frankly, if I did know that someone had a criminal past, it wouldn’t prevent me from talking with that person. It certainly wouldn’t prevent me from working on a Get Out The Vote drive with that person. That’s the kind of mayor Minneapolis chose.”

VJ Smith, the national president of MADDADS, a group working to curb inner-city violence, said the gesture wasn’t gang-related. Smith said the mayor was working hard to connect with young people and empower youth.

“There is no gang sign associated with that,” said Smith. “It would be ridiculous for a mayor to put up a gang sign. That’s not what she wants to do. … It wouldn’t make sense for a mayor to do that and everybody knows that.”

Gang sign

Minneapolis Police Federation President John Delmonico told KSTP the gesture was a gang sign and that the mayor should have known better.

“She’s been around long enough,” he told the station. “When you have the mayor of a major city, with a known criminal, throwing up gang signs, that’s terrible.”

There had already been tensions between police and the mayor, who has called for tougher action against police misconduct.

The man in the photograph with the mayor acknowledged he has a criminal record but said he’s been working to change his life.

He told the AP he felt blessed to stand next to the mayor and said he was dismayed by the photo flap.

Additional Associated Press

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