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Charles Stenvig, a cop with no political experience, won the Minneapolis mayoral race in 1969 on a law-and-order platform. The independent’s victory over endorsed DFL and Republican candidates stunned the political establishment. It also raised concerns among human rights advocates that Stenvig, who had fought against investigations into police brutality while he was president of the Minneapolis Police Officers Federation, would use his office to continue the fight.
One of Stenvig’s first appointees to the city’s Commission on Human Relations was Antonio “Tony” Felicetta, a former truck driver who had run Teamsters Local 792 for more than 30 years. The South High dropout helped organize Local 792 in a series of violent skirmishes among beverage-truck drivers in the 1940s. A 1998 obituary in the Star Tribune described him as “one of the city's most flamboyant labor leaders, a self-promoter who drove a purple Cadillac and outfitted his office bathroom with crystal-beaded lamps and a telephone with four lines.”
Shortly after joining the Commission on Human Relations, he sat for this front-page interview with the Tribune’s Jack Miller. Felicetta’s blunt way of speaking (“Don’t expect me to get raped by every guy that comes along”) and controversial views (he opposed any investigation of police) prompted calls for his resignation. But Stenvig stood by his man, saying his unvarnished speech merely reflected what many whites were feeling.
The interview earned a "laurel" from the Columbia Journalism Review that winter. According to a newsroom memo uncovered by my colleague Bruce Adomeit, CJR wrote:
"By printing verbatim the crudities and obscenities of a truck driver appointed to the Human Relations Commission, [the Tribune portrayed] his racism, pugnacity, and know-nothingism as no 'doctored' quotations could have done."
|The bathroom in Felicetta's union office featured crystal-beaded light fixtures, bronze hardware and a multi-line telephone. (Minneapolis Star photo by Roy Swan)|