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The Minnesota DFL voted Tuesday to ban Nasri Warsame, the Minneapolis City Council candidate whose supporters stormed the stage of a convention earlier this month, from ever seeking the party endorsement.

It also approved a change to its rules that opens the door to potentially banishing Warsame — and others in his campaign — from the party altogether.

More than 300 DFL Party activists logged on to a 6 p.m. virtual meeting of the party's Central Committee and debated well into the evening. Within the Somali community, opinions over Warsame vary, but there is widespread agreement that a ban, potentially for life, would be extreme — and could damage the DFL's relationship with one of its most loyal constituencies.

"Many Somali organizers, politicians, and community members including me have worked so hard for the last decades to include new voters in the process and the DFL Party," Mohamud Mohamed, a member of the party's Central Committee who was part of a lobbying effort pushing for something less than a lifetime ban, said in a statement.

Mohamed said the proposed ban is "silencing" the Somali community, and is "counterproductive to the DFL Party's values of inclusion and democratic process."

DFL Party Chair Ken Martin responded to that criticism at the beginning of Tuesday's meeting, saying he had spoken with numerous leaders and elders in the Somali community, and he said they supported taking strong action. "The Somali community condemns it even more vociferously than we do," Martin said of the convention chaos that prompted it all.

After the votes Tuesday, Martin said the DFL's action "sends a message that we will not tolerate this stuff in the future."

Convention chaos

The hubbub is part of the fallout from the Minneapolis DFL's 10th Ward convention May 13, when first-time candidate Warsame challenged one-term City Council Member Aisha Chughtai for the DFL endorsement. After hours of drama and confusion over the intricacies of convention rules, a group of Warsame supporters stormed the stage as Chughtai and her supporters were preparing to give a speech.

The ensuing chaos prompted the police to be called and resulted in finger-pointing over who was at fault. Several sought medical attention.

A Minneapolis blogger captured much of the scene on video, which gained national attention. Soon the state party found itself needing to respond not only on behalf of those involved, but also to the spectacle, which resulted in a convention recess without anyone being endorsed.

In the video, Warsame can be seen standing back as the fracas breaks out. Several minutes pass before he attempts to calm his supporters.

Days later, dozens of DFL leaders, meeting as the party's Executive Committee, voted to sanction Warsame by barring him from ever receiving a DFL endorsement and discussed the possibility of banning him and some of his campaign workers from party activities.

Before any discipline could be meted out, the party's much larger Central Committee needed to ratify the policy that would allow Warsame to be sanctioned. That was the task of Tuesday's meeting.

Warsame, who has said he condemns what happened but planned to forge ahead with his campaign, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening.

Somali sentiments

The 10th Ward race has gained significant attention and sparked division among Minneapolis' Somali community. Some fault Warsame for his past crude criticism of the former president of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, also known as Farmaajo, while impassioned Warsame supporters are bent on their candidate winning the race.

State Rep. Mohamud Noor, one of the chairs of the legislative branch of the DFL Somali-American Caucus, said he hopes the DFL leaders and 10th Ward candidates will work together to ease the polarization.

"We have had some instances whereby it was solved by the DFL leadership by bringing people together," Noor said. "We don't want one group versus the other."

Osman Ahmed, former state director of the DFL and 10th Ward resident, accused the party of showing a double standard when handling misconduct. Ahmed, who ran for the state House in 2018 and whose 12-hour convention was canceled after a ruckus broke out and police were called, said he's seen worse.

"Chairs were even flying around and the party never bothered to intervene or hold any of the candidates accountable then," he said.

Yussuf Haji ran unsuccessfully for the Ninth Ward council seat two years ago, and now lives in Burnsville. Haji and others say the DFL should have had representatives from the Somali community at the convention to demystify the process to voters.

The party hired a Somali translator for the 10th Ward convention, but he left after party officials said he was threatened.

"The DFL is not perfect, and I know they're doing all they can," Haji said.

But Haji said barring Warsame from ever getting the DFL endorsement is an "extreme" punishment. "Maybe he should forfeit the DFL endorsement for this year and not be banned for life."

The founder of the DFL's Somali-American Caucus, Jamal Abdulahi, did not attend the convention but said he has since spoken with people who were there. He called the accusations that Warsame and his campaign manager misled voters "bogus."

"People are fed up with the narrative that Somalis are violent," Abdulahi said. "A lot of times what happens is newcomers get pushed around; it's just that this group wasn't going to be pushed around. They stood their ground."