DFL House candidate facing backlash for BLM rally behavior

Tom Hauser
Updated: August 18, 2020 08:09 PM
Created: August 18, 2020 07:12 PM

A Black Lives Matter rally outside the home of Minneapolis Police Federation President Bob Kroll disrupted a suburban neighborhood over the weekend and might cause political problems for the DFL House caucus. That's because one of the DFL-endorsed candidates for the Minnesota House of Representatives made threatening remarks at the rally and repeatedly struck an effigy of Kroll's wife, a local TV news reporter, with a large stick.

"I'm glad you're making them uncomfortable here in Hugo, Minnesota," St. Paul DFL house candidate John Thompson shouted into a microphone, followed by a string of expletives aimed in the direction of some men and teenage girls. "Don't run now, don't run now racist white people." 

Later, in video shot by Alpha News, a conservative media outlet, Thompson is shown repeatedly beating the effigy of Kroll's wife while others strike an effigy of Kroll.

It took three days, but DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Gov. Tim Walz, who has endorsed Thompson, both issued statements about Thompson's behavior. Walz doesn't mention Thompson by name, but says, "We cannot accept the threatening behavior or rhetoric we've seen recently in Minnesota's political discourse."

Hortman's statement did mention Thompson's name.

"John Thompson's comments and actions were inappropriate, and he has rightfully apologized," Hortman said. Thompson is likely to win his heavily DFL district and would be working with Hortman and the majority caucus in January.

Carleton College political analyst Steven Schier says Thompson's controversial behavior and statements could cause political problems for the DFL.

"I think it would be politically smart for Democratic leadership to distance themselves from this sort of behavior and draw a firm red line that this is not permissible behavior," Schier told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. "Otherwise the suburbs are a problem for the Democrats. I mean the future of Minnesota politics is determined in the suburbs and you cannot have your party known as a party that despises the suburbs and that's what this incident suggests to some people."

Hortman has criticized other lawmakers in the past for controversial language.  Last year, she criticized Republican House member Rep. Cal Bahr after he made veiled threats to gun rights opponents who want stricter gun laws.

"They need to be kicked to the curb and stomped on and run over a few times," Bahr said in a speech in the Capitol rotunda streamed live on his Facebook page.

At the time, Hortman said of Bahr's comments, "Rep. Bahr's comments are reprehensible and have no place in civilized political discourse. Encouraging violence is irresponsible and dangerous."

A Republican Senate candidate in the same area of St. Paul as Thompson urged him to end his campaign for the House.

"This shouldn't have to be political," Alexander Deputie said. "It's clearly an act of terror and it has no place within our country."

Deputie fled Liberia with his family at age 8 where he says this type of behavior was more common.

GOP denounces 'dangerous rhetoric' by DFL House candidate at Hugo rally

The DFL Party denounced Thompson on Sunday, one day after the rally, saying, "The Minnesota DFL does not condone any rhetoric which is violent, hateful or inflammatory. We expect our candidate and elected officials to live up to our highest values when they represent the DFL Party."

Thompson told the Pioneer Press newspaper he's not doing more interviews on the rally because he's received death threats. However, he issued an apology on his campaign Facebook page.

"I want to make a positive difference and my comments on Saturday were not helpful," he wrote. "Inflammatory rhetoric is not how I want to address the important issues we're facing, and I apologize. I'm not apologizing for my passion to fight injustice."

Thompson was a friend of Philando Castile who was shot and killed by a St. Anthony Police officer who was later charged and acquitted in the case.

The Washington County Sheriff and County Attorney issued a joint statement Monday saying after an investigation they determined "comments made by Mr. Thompson, though grossly inappropriate, do not violate any felony statute."


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