Rep. Thompson’s supporters rally to his defense

Photo by KingDemetrius Pendleton Rep. John Thompson appears with family members at a press conference on Monday.

Supporters say he is under attack for ‘calling out racism’

A motley group of supporters of MN Representative John Thompson (DFL-67A) organized a press conference on Monday at the Minnesota State Capitol to defend him. Thompson has faced calls to resign from several DFL leaders, including Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, amid reports of previous domestic violence abuse allegations.

Thompson said once again that he will not resign. Standing beside his wife Lea Austin-Thompson, three children, and supporters outside the Minnesota State Capitol, Thompson said he could not answer questions about the old allegations without his attorney present.

He also would not answer questions about his city of residence, which is not related to the abuse allegations. He did, however, make one brief statement when asked about resigning.

“If you’re not careful, the oppressor will have you believe that they’re the ones being oppressed,” said Thompson. “One of the greatest quotes I’ve ever heard in my life is, ‘Your life begins to end when you remain silent about things that matter the most.’ I will not remain silent. I will not be resigning.”

Supporters insist the domestic violence accusations, dating from to 2003 to 2009, are not true. Thompson has insisted that police are targeting him and has accused St. Paul police of racially profiling him after he was stopped for not having a front license plate.

He was criticized after he was elected for having a Wisconsin driver’s license when he was running for the Minnesota legislature. He updated his license in November.

“Nothing happened,” said Austin-Thompson about the accusations of abuse. “My husband and I went through some things. I have never been abused. My husband did not abuse me. I am not a victim. I have never been a victim.

“Y’all pulled some stuff from years ago,” Austin-Thompson said. “We are no longer those people. I am almost 50. Years ago we were in our 20s.”

Thompson has repeatedly said the reports and allegations are false. Governor Walz told reporters, “I think it would be very unusual for three different police departments stretching over a decade to fabricate information.”

However, police have been known to fabricate evidence, and many would not find it difficult to believe that the police are prevaricating in this instance as well. Considering it was only a year ago that Minneapolis police falsified the report of George Floyd’s death, it would not be difficult for some to believe that the police have similarly falsified the accusations against Thompson.

Thompson’s lawyer Jordan Kushner took to Facebook to dispute the claims as well. “Mr. Thompson challenges the authenticity of the police reports that have been circulated to the press. It is my understanding that the purported police reports were provided to reporters by persons associated with law enforcement groups. These are likely the same groups that have been constantly and vigorously waging a smear campaign against Mr. Thompson since his speech in Hugo, MN in August 2020 (11 months ago).

“If these police reports existed in their current form, it is unfathomable that the many people digging into Thompson’s past would not have found those police reports before the November election, much less during the ensuing months. The police reports are a product of the campaign to silence an American African man who speaks out against powerful and abusive interests, and not the product of any effort to uncover truth,” wrote Kushner.

“He was elected by the people to work for the people. And that is exactly what he has done. He has authored many bills,” said Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, who was killed by former St. Anthony cop Jeronimo Yanez in July 2016. Castile’s speech was interrupted by a White woman with a large Trump flag hanging out of her driver’s side window who drove her car up on the lawn near where the press conference was organized.

“When you start attacking a man because he cares about his community, and he is doing what he said he was going to do as a representative of this state, that’s wrong,” Castile continued.  “He is trying to make changes that obviously they don’t like. I know there are a lot of people with skeletons in their closet,” she said pointing out that others have been guilty of breaking the law but it has not been used against them later.

“It’s not about an attack on the police,” said Toshira Garraway, founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence who helped organize the press conference. “But we do want to say that we…will fight for a man that we believe in our hearts is being unfairly alienated and just pretty much downgraded through the media.”

Nelise Yang, St.Paul Ward 6 council member, also stood in solidarity with Thompson. “We need more folks like John in office because he comes to the table ready to fight for all,” said Yang, adding that she sees him as the change the world needs.

Yang said that in all the different types of political campaigns she has seen from a Black man, this is something she has seen happen “over and over again… A question about their morality, their past…everything about them is questioned. It’s no surprise.”

Thompson’s claim to fame had been his relationship with Castile, who he said had been his good friend. He joined many of the protests demanding justice for Castile. Thompson had raised his profile giving fiery speeches, becoming well-known for shouting at protests, “I hate White Supremacy!”

 Thompson ran afoul of many while running for his legislative seat after he gave a profanity-laden speech in front of the home of former Minneapolis police sergeant Bob Kroll in Hugo, Minnesota. Rumors spread that he said the town should be burned. He apologized for his outburst after being confronted about his remarks, saying, “Inflammatory rhetoric is not how I want to address the important issues we’re facing.”

“Many legislators, like everyone else, have made bad decisions in their past,” said Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality. “However, legislative leaders are not investigating them. They are focusing on John Thompson because he is calling out racism and making it hard for legislators to be comfortable in their racism.”

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