Former City Council member and current school board candidate Don Samuels is taking heat for calling the cops on a hot dog giveaway organized by Neighborhoods Organizing for Change on a sidewalk right outside its north Minneapolis headquarters at 911 W. Broadway Ave.
Samuels says he thought the hot dogs were being sold illegally by a group without a license to sell food. In fact, however, the dogs were given away as part of NOC's "impromptu pledge-to-vote barbecue," as a post on the organization's Facebook page puts it.
Here's video of a cop arriving at the scene and giving folks a hard time about whether the dogs were being distributed for money or in an attempt to "elicit votes." Note how the officer confirms he's there because of a 911 call made by Samuels:
And here's a sampling of what people have been saying about the video and Samuels's decision to call the cops on Facebook:
Samuels himself responded with a statement he posted in the same comment thread:
Anthony Newby, executive director of NOC, tells us he'll let Samuels's statement speak for itself, "But what I will say is [him calling 911] was not helpful."
"I feel like he could've stopped into the office," he continues. "Mr. Samuels claims to be a NOC member, and I'll take him at his word that he supports and appreciates our work, but he could've done a number of things other than call 911 dispatch."
"This is part of a long line of voter suppression experiences that NOC members have had," Newby adds. "There was an incident at Cub Foods recently where two of our staff members were issued citations for having conversations about voter rights and the right to vote in communities of color. This spans way back historically."
We asked Newby if he knows anything about the alleged illegal businesses Samuels says he's seen operating along Broadway.
"I have absolutely no awareness of examples of illegal restaurants or food vendors, certainly not on the 900 block of Broadway," Newby replies. "He might have more information that I don't, but in terms of lack of jobs, unemployment disparity levels, education, and violence in the community, it's safe to say hot dog vendors are not on our radar screen."
Newby says NOC isn't making political endorsements this election cycle, but adds, "He's driving by an office and calls 911... It's reasonable to ask the question, what does that say about his larger political orientation?"
Reached for comment, Samuels said he's in meetings today and wouldn't be available for a phone chat until tomorrow. We'll try to get more details about his version of events when we touch base over the weekend.
Samuels has been under a microscope this month after the Investigative Fund published a report detailing the surprising amount of national money that's pouring into his school board campaign. In response, Samuels told Fox 9, "I can't be bought."