TV Station Accuses Mayor of ‘Gang Signs’ For Pointing Index Finger With Black Volunteer

A Minnesota television station was met with widespread outrage and ridicule on Friday after it aired a segment claiming Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges had recently flashed a “gang sign” while standing next to a convicted felon.

What the report left out: the photograph was taken during an event put on by the Twin Cities charity Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), and the young man, identified in the news segment simply as a “criminal,” was a volunteer.

As for the “gang sign”—it appears to be no more than the mayor and the volunteer pointing at each other in one of many poses for a photo op.

But television station KSTP left no room for ambiguity in its report on Thursday night. The station spoke exclusively with current and former police officers who insisted the mayor was “flashing gang signs” and left out all details of the charity. On its website, the segment’s headline read: “Mpls. Mayor Flashes Gang Sign with Convicted Felon; Law Enforcement Outraged.”

However, the charity’s own video revealed footage of the young man, Navell Gordon, walking with Hodges, a member of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, and explaining his current participation in community organization and civic outreach.

“I’ve made some mistakes in life, you know, I can’t vote, I’m not ashamed to say that,” the young man said. “But I’m working on that, now.”

The video, posted to YouTube on Thursday, also showed the moment Gordon and the mayor pointed at each other following a series of gestures both made while posing for photos.

Watch at the 30-second mark below:

The television station also neglected to mention that Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau was there with Hodges and at that very moment, off camera.

In a tweet that has apparently since been deleted, the Minneapolis Police Department posted a photo on Saturday of Harteau at the scene next to Hodges and the volunteer.

Here’s a screengrab of the tweet posted by Daily Kos:

The KSTP report quoted people involved with law enforcement who said the mayor was not only acting carelessly but perhaps putting lives in danger by indulging in the “gang sign.”

“The fact that they’re flashing gang signs back and forth at each other, showing solidarity with the gangs,” a former Minneapolis police officer told the station, “she’s legitimzing what they’re doing.”

“She’s legitimizing these people that are killing our children in Minneapolis,” he added.

The segment briefly alluded to a statement released by the mayor’s spokesperson saying, “she and the man in the photo are just pointing at one another.” It then moved on to another interview with an officer dismissing the notion.

“Is she gonna support gangs in the city or cops?” the president of the Minneapolis Police Federation told the station, adding that the mayor may “incite gang violence.”

Hodges recently made headlines criticizing the Minneapolis Police Department, pushing for reforms such as wearable body-cams on officers and saying some cops “abuse the public trust.”

In addition, Hodges’ office previously had a public beef with the news station after it ran a report alleging tensions between the mayor and the chief of police. Hodges’ spokesperson issued a harsh condemnation of the segment.

Enter the hashtag: Not long after the segment aired, the phrase #pointergate began to circulate on social media mocking the “gang sign” narrative:

Meanwhile, reporter Jay Kolls, who appeared in the KSTP segment, took to Twitter Thursday night defending the integrity of the report and mocking those who questioned whether racism played a role in it.

As of Friday, the station had not retracted the report. It did issue a statement on its website:

“Law enforcement sources alerted KSTP-TV to a photo they believed could jeopardize public safety and put their officers at risk, especially given the recent increase in gang violence. 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. 5 Eyewitness News blurred the individual’s face and did not name the group he was working for because police called into question only the judgment of Mayor Betsy Hodges.”

Watch the original segment below:

h/t DailyKos

This post has been updated.

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