A week after a DFL caucus in a Somali-dominated area of Minneapolis broke out into chaos, the state party announced Tuesday that it would be reconvened later this month at a new location.
The fracas at the Brian Coyle Center, which became briefly violent, was fueled by activists on either side of a political battle between Mahamud Noor and long-time state Rep. Phyllis Kahn. The caucus ended before any officers could be elected.
The new caucus location will be held Feb. 19 at the University of Minnesota's Coffman Union, across the river from the more centrally located Brian Coyle Center.
One activist, Iddil Abdull, asserted that the location change will benefit Kahn since many Somali participants -- who live on the west side of the river -- are elderly or don't own cars. DFL chair Ken Martin said both campaigns agreed to the move, which was necessary because the event would exceed Brian Coyle's capacity.
"We got agreements from both of the campaigns…They were both involved in the negotiations. This is not a decision that was unilaterally made by the DFL," Martin said. "We didn’t come to this conclusion lightly. And we’re providing buses, spending thousands of dollars out of our own pocket to provide transportation from the Brian Coyle Center to the Coffman Union.”
Martin said they were told the Brian Coyle Center gym has a capacity of 350 people. About 375 people attended on caucus night, technically a fire code violation.
Responding to the e-mail from Abdull, Kahn said she was the first to object to the new location and also the first to request transportation. Noor has not responded to a request for comment.
The new caucus will also have neutral conveners, since last week's event broke down over who should control the event. They are Martin, former mayor R.T. Rybak, former St. Paul City Council Member Melvin Carter and a Senate District 53 chairwoman Alberder Gillespie.
The caucus will also require a proof of residency, which does not necessarily have to be government-issued identification, Martin said.
Amano Dube, the director of the Brian Coyle Center, said the DFL called last week to inquire about renting the gym again. But when they called back to confirm, they said they had chosen a new location.
A party press release said the event was moved because of "space constraints." “I don’t know what turnout they are expecting and what they mean by ‘constraints,’” Dube said.
Dube could not be reached again for comment after Martin clarified that they were told the gym had a 350-person capacity.