And why are they “flooding the zone with shit?”

There’s a chance Minneapolitans may grudgingly re-elect an unpopular mayor who has demonstrably made our community less safe*. Why? Because they are afraid of the public safety charter amendment. To paraphrase Talking Heads’ David Byrne, “My god, how did we get here?”

Public safety is the #1 hot button issue for most voters following the murder of George Floyd and the explosion of violence that’s plagued our community since that tragic and fateful day. Finding a path forward was never going to be easy, but there are powerful players out there intentionally poisoning the water in an attempt to make any progress impossible: meet All of Mpls, a political action committee with demonstrable ties to Mayor Jacob Frey.

Frey and his team have come up with contemptuous re-election strategy: stay out of sight — he doesn’t even attend most of the mayoral forums anymore — and let the All of Mpls political action committee frighten Minneapolis voters into re-electing him. It’s cynical, deceptive, and the mark of a man who has always been out of his depth in the office.

By now you’ve likely seen some of the tsunami of ads and mailings disseminated by All of Mpls (AOM). Social media is drowning in them, their glossy mailers arrive in post boxes weekly, and their video ads pop up on sites like AccuWeather. Their website lists no staff or supporters, just the claim to be a “locally organized, broad-based effort.” It’s appears a classic case of astroturfing: AOM wants to appear a grassroots efforts, but in reality it’s a well-financed bludgeon bashing the actual grassroots effort to demand public safety reform. Politics can be an ugly business, sure, but what’s unconscionable is that AOMs avalanche of ads and social media posts contain outright lies about the charter amendment. It’s an intentional strategy, one that former Trump advisor Steve Bannon once called “flooding the zone with shit.” Confuse voters until they either begin to believe your lies or become so disgusted they don’t vote at all.

The All of MPLS PAC has torn this page out of the trumpian playbook, employing misinformation and half-truths to frighten people and stir up a firestorm of anger and confusion about the public safety charter amendment. They claim not to coordinate with any candidate, yet a recent mailing features wall-to-wall full color photos, front and back, of Frey gazing admiringly at MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo.

Detail of All of Mpls mailer with incorrect assertion that the public safety amendment eliminates the MPD and fires the Chief of Police. This mailer also included a pull quote from the StarTribune — as do almost most of the All of Mpls ads and mailers — as the Strib is all in on Frey’s re-election.

Lets take a look at the All of Mpls campaign:

A recent All of Mpls mailer claims that Question 2 “eliminates the police department and Police Chief Arradondo.” A Facebook ad claims the amendment will “eliminate the police and replace the chief.”

NO IT WOULD NOT. It would put police, the Office of Violence Prevention, and other response and prevention initiatives under a newly formed Department of Public Safety. There would still be a police led by a Chief of Police or position with a similar title.

Another mailing uses an out-of-context statement from MN Attorney General Keith Ellison to make it seem like he is against Question 2.

UNTRUE: Ellison publicly stated his support for Question 2, tweeting, “As a resident of Mpls where George Floyd’s murder sparked a national call for real reform, I will vote Yes (on question 2) for greater public safety & more human rights for all.”

Yet another mailer claims the other mayoral candidates want to abolish the police.

WRONG: At least one candidate, former State Representative Kate Knuth, has publicly stated she will support police staffing at current levels.

All of Mpls ads relentlessly pummel voters with the same basic lies: the proposed public safety charter amendment would eliminate the police and fire Chief Arradondo, and that all other mayoral candidates want to abolish the police.

Who would put together a PAC designed to turn the crucial debate on public safety into a Bannon-esque shit zone?

A few things to know about All of Mpls PAC:

Its only publicly named staffer, campaign manager Leili Fatehi, was on the communications team for Frey’s campaign in 2017. Here’s a video of her and Frey together during that campaign.

Fatehi’s spouse, Peter Ebnet, is currently a policy aide to the mayor.

(It’s also worth noting that there’s quite a bit of crossover between major donors to All of Mpls PAC and Frey’s re-election campaign. See chart below.)

There’s nothing illegal about former campaign staff running an attack PAC that benefits your current campaign, even if they are married to one of your senior policy aides. However it sure begs the question of ethics and the level of Frey’s involvement in this organized propaganda effort.

Every week I talk to friends and neighbors who don’t want to vote for Frey but feel they have to because of the public safety charter amendment. This is exactly what All of Mpls and the Frey re-election campaign is banking on. So take a few important things under consideration before you decide who to support as your next mayor and how you will vote on charter question 2.

1. The Public Safety Amendment does not abolish or defund the police. Anyone who says so is lying. Full stop.

2. The amendment is a GUIDELINE that will be further shaped and enacted by city leadership should it pass.

3. Few cities in Minnesota have a city charter with a provision that requires a police department, much less how many police it should have or what portion of the budget should be spend on police. This is a relic of the 1960’s. Even our sister city of St Paul does not require a police department. (See list below).

Minneapolitans are considering the relative merits of a groundbreaking charter amendment and most are striving to do so in good faith. It’s not easy and there’s no place for the malicious lies of a political action committee in this intense public debate. It’s also deeply concerning that our current mayor may have links to such a lie campaign, or at the least be turning a blind eye to it and the damage it is doing to our public discourse. Our community is wrestling with one of the greatest political challenges we will ever face.

Vote with facts, not fear.

Camille Gage is a Minneapolis based artist and writer. #GagePage

  • * Fox 9 News report, May 20, 2021: “The city has seen a 222 percent increase in carjackings this year compared with this point in 2020, averaging 1.27 incidents per day, according to police data. Homicides are up 108 percent from a year earlier, while shootings have risen 153 percent.”

Cities with charters and whether police departments are required by charter:

Donors to All of Minneapolis and the Frey re-election campaign. Taken from public records you can view in their entirety here.

Camille J. Gage is a Minneapolis based artist and writer.