TV station accuses mayor of 'flashing a known gang sign,' sparks '#pointergate'
KSTP Thursday broadcast a story accusing Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges of "posing with a convicted felon while flashing a known gang sign."
Hodges appeared in a photo with Navell Gordon, a volunteer for a nonprofit called Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. Gordon is on probation, KSTP reports.
"She is legitimizing these people," Michael Quinn, a retired Minneapolis cop, tells KSTP. "She is legitimizing gangs who are killing our children in Minneapolis and I just can't believe it. It hurts."
KSTP issued a statement Friday saying it was merely passing along information: "Multiple sources from several law enforcement agencies told 5 Eyewitness News the photo had the potential for undermining the work they are doing on the streets," it said.
In fact, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau was at that event with Hodges, Minneapolis Police spokesperson Scott Seroka told Poynter in an email. The police department didn't yet have comment on KSTP's story, Seroka said.
Hodges spokesperson Kate Brickman also declined to comment on the story itself but shared with Poynter the same statement her office gave KSTP:
“My job as mayor is to be as accessible as possible to the residents of Minneapolis, and help build relationships and trust in every community in our city. I constantly meet people and organizations who are working to make our communities stronger, including last weekend, when other community leaders and I joined members of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change to increase voter participation in North Minneapolis. It was a diverse group, including people who have made mistakes in their past. The more supportive that we all can be of people who are making better choices now, the better off we all will be in the future.”
Brickman also included some other photos from the event, in none of which the mayor or anyone else appears to be throwing a gang sign.
Perhaps this is only an interesting coincidence, but in September Gordon said a Minneapolis police officer named Tyrone Barze Jr. "tackled and handcuffed him." NOC community engagement director Wintana Melekin asked an officer, on video, why police threatened to shoot Gordon, and the officer arrested her.
In a separate incident that led to a federal lawsuit, a high school student said Barze used a neck restraint on him after "allegedly disruptive lunchtime behavior."
Meanwhile, Twitter users are having fun with the hashtag #pointergate, directing police and media to other dangerous uses of fingers.
— Ken Paulman (@kenpaulman) November 7, 2014