MINNEAPOLIS — The mayor of Minneapolis isn't flashing a gang sign in a photo quickly gaining traction online, but rather pointing at a man helping in a voting campaign, her spokeswoman and community groups said Friday in response to allegations made in a television report and by a police union.
KSTP-TV aired a report Thursday night quoting the head of the Minneapolis police union saying that the Nov. 1 photo of Mayor Betsy Hodges and a community activist, who are pointing a finger at each other with their thumbs raised, shows the pair flashing a known gang sign.
The report was swiftly criticized on social media, with hundreds of tweets ridiculing the report or calling it racist. Many show photos of U.S. presidents, Pope Francis and even Cookie Monster using similar hand gestures, under the hashtag #Pointergate.
Hodges' spokeswoman, Kate Brickman, told The Associated Press on Friday that the photo merely shows the mayor and Navell Gordon, an employee of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, "pointing at each other" while knocking on doors to get out the vote in north Minneapolis. She said the mayor has many photos on her Facebook page showing her making the same gesture with others.
KSTP News Director Lindsay Radford stood by the report Friday. A police spokesman said the department had no comment.
VJ Smith, the national president of MADDADS, a group working to curb inner-city violence, said the gesture wasn't gang-related. Minneapolis Police Federation President John Delmonico told KSTP the gesture was a gang sign and that the mayor should have known better. Delmonico didn't return a call from the AP. There had already been tensions between police and the mayor, who has called for tougher action against police misconduct.