Breaking News: Fight Breaks Out at Democratic Party Caucus in Minneapolis [Updated]

Party caucuses are going on tonight in precincts across Minnesota. Caucuses are an old-fashioned civic tradition, more noted for boredom and long nights than anything else, but tonight there was some excitement at a DFL caucus in Minneapolis. A fight broke out:

A very tense night at a caucus site in Minneapolis where DFLer Mohamud Noor is challenging longtime DFL state Rep. Phyllis Kahn. The heat in one Minneapolis location resulted in police being called out. With 300 people at the Byan [sic] Coyle Center, a fight broke out and people rushed the stage. After the melee, the Minneapolis police shut down the caucus. See the video below and the live blog for more.

A lot of cultural history is packed into that paragraph. Phyllis Kahn, 76 years old, has been in the Minnesota legislature for an astonishing 42 years. A political insider for her entire adult life, she lives in one of the notorious $1 homes on Nicollet Island that were given to prominent Democrats. Mohamud Noor is a Somali, one of many thousands who have thronged to Minnesota in recent years. Until recently a state employee, he was elected to the Minneapolis school board less than two months ago. He says his “campaign will be focused on equity issues.” Kahn, on the other hand, emphasizes her ability to bring home the bacon:

Kahn is making the case that her seniority, including chairing the House committee overseeing Legacy Amendment money, and her long experience on appropriations panels, give her an effectiveness advantage over Noor, who would need years to build seniority.

So, like so many Democratic incumbents, she has cold cash on her side.

The precinct caucus that came to fisticuffs was, fittingly, held in the Brian Coyle Center. Coyle was a Minnesota Democrat who was indicted for failing to register for the draft, was a member of Students for a Democratic Society, directed the National Campaign to Impeach Nixon, campaigned for rent control, founded an alternative newspaper, ran a succession of unsuccessful political races before being elected to the Minneapolis City Council, came out as gay and died of AIDS at age 47. The Brian Coyle Center is one of several local landmarks named after him.

So far, the details of the fight haven’t been reported. We don’t know who stormed the stage, or who was speaking at the time. The Vine video at the link is brief and uninformative.

No doubt more will be reported in the morning. In the meantime, the fact that a fistfight broke out at a DFL caucus in Minneapolis is news enough. It suggests that there are divisions within the Democratic Party that have not been sufficiently noted.

UPDATE: A little more information is now available at the link:

“There was an argument about who was controlling the meeting, as far as I could tell,” said Park Board commissioner Scott Vreeland, who tried to break up the fight. “And then there was kind of a rush forward of folks that wanted something different.”

The altercation over who would chair the event took place before any delegates were elected. Two women outside the meeting said that an aide for council member Andrew Johnson, Ilham Omar, was attacked.

“She was attacked,” Johnson said in an interview. “She’s got some bruises and cuts but she’s going to be fine.”

A handful of police quickly started dispersing the crowd, telling people to leave the building. The event, which began around 7 p.m., was over by 7:40 p.m.

It appears the two people running to chair the meeting were Mohamed Jama and Zamzam Ali. “I’m speechless,” Ali said outside the gymnasium.

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