Lawmaker who made questionable 'driving while Black' claim talked about 'burning' a town after Floyd's death

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The Minnesota state representative who questionably claimed he was recently pulled over by police for “driving while Black” previously talked about “burning” down a town following George Floyd’s death. 

“This whole god d–n state burned down for 20 god d–n dollars, you think we give a f–k about burning Hugo down? Now you running your coward a– back into the garage,” state Rep. John Thompson said during a protest outside of police union president Bob Kroll’s house in Hugo, Minnesota, last August.

Thompson was running for office at the time of the protest and was also seen striking effigies of Kroll and his wife, a local journalist. The Democratic politician later issued an apology and went on to win his election in November. 

Thompson is now facing new scrutiny after Minnesota police released bodycam footage taken during a traffic stop on July 4 that raises questions over Thompson’s claim that he was pulled over for “driving while Black.” 

The bodycam footage shows an officer pulling him over early in the morning for not having a front license plate and for how he took off at a traffic light. 

Thompson disagreed with why he was pulled over, alleging his race motivated the officer to target him. 

“I’m too old to run from the police, man,” Thompson says in the video. “You profiled me because you looked me dead in the face and I got a ticket for driving while Black. You pulled me over because you saw a Black face in this car, brother. There’s no way in hell I’m taking off with you behind me. … You looked in this car and busted a U-turn and got behind my car, and that’s the reason.”

Police bodycam footage of Rep. John Thompson’s July 4 traffic stop
(City of St. Paul/Minnesota House of Representatives)

“But what I’m saying is, what you’re doing is wrong, to Black men,” he continued. “And you need to stop that. Thank you so much, but this ticket means nothing to me … What I’m saying to you is stop racially profiling Black men in their cars sir. Stop doing that.”

Thompson’s claim elicited St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell to demand an apology, saying he reviewed the bodycam footage and found it had “nothing to do with the driver’s race.”

“Simply put, the traffic stop was by the books,” Axtell said in a Facebook post. “What happened afterwards was anything but, I’m dismayed and disappointed by the state representative’s response to the stop. Rather than taking responsibility for his own decisions and actions, he attempted to deflect, cast aspersions and deny any wrongdoing.”

Thompson has not answered Axtell’s call to apologize but supported the release of the bodycam footage and noted the officer’s actions “were by the book.”

But it isn’t the first time Thompson claimed racial discrimination during an interaction with police and is standing trial this week over a 2019 misdemeanor charge for obstruction of the legal process. 

Thompson alleges that he and other Black Americans were unfairly treated by police at North Memorial Medical Center in November 2019 after a group gathered at the hospital following his son’s friend trying to commit suicide.

His claims greatly differ from what police and prosecutors contend happened, however, with police saying the hospital went on lockdown after about 50-75 people began fighting and banging on windows. 

Thompson alleges that police and security guards treated Black Americans in the crowd callously, and directly called the police racist. He says an officer responded by calling him an “idiot” and arrested him for trespassing. 

The trespassing charge was eventually dropped, but he is still facing a charge of obstruction of the legal process.

Video of his arrest will be presented as evidence at the trial, which is expected to last through this week. 

Police bodycam footage of Rep. John Thompson’s July 4 traffic stop
(City of St. Paul/Minnesota House of Representatives)

His trial also comes amid scrutiny over his residency in the district he represents. 

The July 4 bodycam footage shows that Thompson holds a Wisconsin license that was suspended in 2019 for failure to pay child support in Ramsey County, Minnesota. His court documents related to his trial this week were also being sent to an address outside of his St. Paul district. 

He is a registered Minnesota voter with a residence listed within his St. Paul district. But he has never held a Minnesota license and renewed his Wisconsin license just last year. Wisconsin licenses are only issued to residents in the state. 

Repeated emails from Fox News to Thompson about his residency have gone unanswered. He also refused to answer a question from a KARE 11 reporter this week on whether he lived in his district for 30 days prior to his election, which is required in Minnesota’s state constitution.

“Quit chasing me, man. Get out of my face,” he told the local reporter. 

Thompson’s attorney Jordan Kushner, however, said the state representative has always lived in his district but was unaware court documents were sent to an address outside of his district.  

The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association is also demanding answers on his residency and sent a letter to the Wisconsin attorney general asking for an investigation. The group argued that Thompson had either “defrauded the state of Wisconsin” or defrauded his Minnesota “constituents.”

Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party House Speaker Melissa Hortman said she will investigate the matter with the help of the Minnesota House legal counsel.

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