Days after the state DFL banned him from seeking the party's endorsement, Nasri Warsame said Thursday that he's continuing his campaign for the Minneapolis City Council.
At an afternoon news conference, Warsame criticized the recent sanction by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party — of which he said he remains a member — and said the party has alienated a segment of Somali residents that supports him.
"The DFL endorsement process is biased, unfair to new voters, and undemocratic," Warsame said.
His remarks are the latest in the fallout over last month's chaotic Minneapolis DFL 10th Ward convention, which was shut down after a group of Warsame supporters stormed the stage as he looked on and his opponent, Council Member Aisha Chughtai, was preparing to speak.
A viral video of the ruckus, which prompted the police to be called in, was met with condemnation. State DFL Chair Ken Martin said an "in-depth investigation" concluded that Warsame supporters were "mainly responsible" for the chaos, which left several people seeking medical attention, including a woman who suffered a torn rotator cuff and another who was monitored for high blood pressure.
Warsame said he also condemns the violence but rejects the investigation's findings. He maintains his supporters acted out of justified frustration over what he said was a process that was poorly translated and fundamentally unfair.
The state DFL party's Central Committee — an assemblage of several hundred party activists — voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to effectively bar Warsame from ever seeking or getting the DFL endorsement. The committee also opened the door to possibly banishing Warsame from the party entirely, though it's unclear if that will happen.
The party can't legally stop Warsame from running for office, and Minneapolis City Council races are technically nonpartisan. But the DFL endorsement carries weight in a city that votes strongly Democratic.
Convention to go virtual
The 10th Ward convention was officially recessed as the building was cleared and police arrived. But party leaders want to reconvene to finish the business of voting on candidate endorsements, partly to send a message that intimidation or threats of violence won't succeed.
On Wednesday evening, the DFL's 10th Ward committee decided to reconvene — though not in person — for the purpose of making a potential endorsement, Minneapolis DFL Chair Briana Rose Lee said. Details of the voting, which will likely be done via computer, haven't been determined yet.
"It was important that the delegates of Ward 10 still have a choice to vote for or against an endorsement this cycle," Lee said Thursday.
Warsame himself won't be eligible to receive votes. But none of his voting delegates have been sanctioned, so they could decide to vote to endorse no one.
On Thursday, Warsame campaign manager Abshir Omar said the campaign is encouraging its delegates to participate and vote however they wish. But he said many are disillusioned with the process. Regardless, Chughtai would approach any such vote as the clear frontrunner.
Many within Minneapolis' Somali community have watched with skepticism as the DFL weighed punishment for Warsame, whose supporters attempted to lobby for a lesser discipline or none at all.
Martin responded to that criticism at the start of Tuesday's meeting, saying he had spoken with numerous leaders and elders in the Somali community and that they supported taking strong action.
"The Somali community condemns it even more vociferously than we do," Martin said of the convention chaos.
On Thursday, Warsame disputed the level of Martin's dialogue with various segments of Minneapolis' tapestry of East African immigrants. He offered the testimony of an elder, Sheik Khalif Ali Shire, who said he was at the 10th Ward convention but was never contacted by Martin. He described himself as "a representative of Nasri tribally."
With Omar as his translator, Shire said: "I am disheartened to hear that the DFL chairman has decided to meet with certain Somali imams, certain Somali traditional elders, and certain community members and has disregarded a completely different population."
State DFL party officials declined to comment Thursday on Warsame's news conference.