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Minneapolis Mayor Explains Why Pointing Is Not A Gang Sign In #Pointergate Response

"I point a lot. Lots of people point. The President. Bill Clinton. Stephen Colbert. Babies. It is the earliest form of human communication."

Posted on November 14, 2014, at 11:13 a.m. ET

Earlier this month, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges became rankled in a weird controversy over this photo of her and an election volunteer:

KSTP / Via

A Minneapolis TV station aired an investigative report, citing police sources, claiming that Hodges and this black man, Navell Gordon – a convicted felon – were flashing gang signs.

John Delmonico, the President of the Minneapolis Police Federation, told KSTP, "she's been around long enough, she knows better."

"When you have the mayor of a major city with a known criminal throwing up gang signs, that's terrible," said Delmonico. "Is she going to support gangs in the city or cops?"

The story’s online headline: “Mpls. Mayor Flashes Gang Sign with Convicted Felon; Law Enforcement Outraged.”

The story sparked Twitter's furor, and #pointergate began trending. The outrage prompted KSTP to issue a response that it stuck by its reporting and trusted its law enforcement sources.

Hodges' office issued a statement saying, "it's just pointing."

KSTP posted another story this week defending its vetting of the photo and the its police sources suggestion that Hodges engaging with Gordon could be dangerous.

"It's difficult for many Minnesotans to understand, but just the slightest perceived provocation could spark violence," KSTP reporter Stephen Tellier writes.


Mayor Betsy Hodges

This week, Hodges called out Delmonico and the police union on her blog for inciting #pointergate.

As one of the two people pointing in the photo, I've tried to understand what the head of the police union thinks I should do, or not do. There seem to be four options.

First, maybe the head of the police union would like me to stop pointing altogether for the safety of the community. If that were truly his concern, that my pointing constitutes gang activity, then his outrage would have been sparked long, long ago. Because as the internet has documented in great detail, I point. I point a lot. Lots of people point. The President. Bill Clinton. Stephen Colbert. Babies. It is the earliest form of human communication.* I'm not going to stop pointing.

That option doesn't make sense.

In her post, Hodges lays out several other ridiculous options she feels might appease the police union, such as asking people on the street if they're felons, have gang ties, or just not talking to black people. She meant to prove her point that the whole #pointergate thing is absurd.

Finally, Hodges makes a suggestion that alludes to the simmering tension between the mayor and the cops:

This is yet one more option that doesn't make sense.

Which leaves one final option. It could be that the head of the police union wants me to stop working to raise the standards of police culture and accountability. It could be that he objects to the community policing and relationship-building measures that I am acting on, and attempted to use this non-story to discredit this work.

I share the public's speculation that this is the real option.

Hodges and the union have been at odds over her reform-minded policies in the city. Before #Pointergate, Delmonico wrote an op-ed in the Star Tribune saying the Mayor's agenda "slaps in the face to every member of the Minneapolis Police Department."

MPD Federeration

John Delmonico

Mayor Betsy Hodges

BuzzFeed News reached out to the Minneapolis Police Federation about Hodges' post and is waiting to hear back.

Neighborhoods Organizing For Change / Via

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.