Protesters have continued to press a legitimate case for racial justice in the Twin Cities area, but where there are protests there are amplified passions, and where there are amped-up passions there are plugged-in politicians. And so it was that John Thompson, a DFL candidate for the Minnesota House from District 67A in St. Paul, found himself Saturday with a microphone in his hands in the otherwise quiet northeastern exurb of Hugo.
Hugo? That’s where Minneapolis police union president Bob Kroll lives. It’s a pleasant 25-mile commute from the gritty city where he’s employed. The protest was outside of Kroll’s house. The protesters think that Kroll is a member of the hate group that goes by the first letter of his last name repeated thrice, or at least that he’s earned the appellation, and they’d like him to be absented from his job. (For the record, the Star Tribune Editorial Board agrees that the union would benefit from a leadership change.)
Enter Thompson, who was stoked. Speaking in front of Kroll’s neighbors in a manner best described as a bellow, Thompson expressed the following themes: “I’m a Black man being terrorized by this [expletive] [pejorative] right here. We are terrorized by the [administrative title of pejorative group]. Y’all got the [administrative title of pejorative group] living in your [expletive] neighborhood. All the [pejorative] exist in Hugo, Minnesota, and it’s right here. Don’t run now. Don’t run now, racist white people. I’m here! …”
Oh, and something about not giving [an expletive] if Hugo should burn.
Thompson’s background is as an activist, so we can understand his tornadic style. And he was a friend of Philando Castile, so no one should deny his torment. But effective political leaders know how to funnel emotions.
Meanwhile, we’d venture that we would, in fact, give [an expletive] should harm come to Hugo. Two, even. As would Kroll’s neighbors, who are not responsible for Kroll. As should anyone who wants real social progress.
Thompson’s performance found its way onto Twitter and drew both the justified criticism and political haymaking you’d expect. On Sunday, a mellower, more promising version of the aspiring legislator emerged.
“I want to make a positive difference and my comments on Saturday were not helpful,” he wrote on his campaign’s Facebook page. “Inflammatory rhetoric is not how I want to address the important issues we’re facing, and I apologize.”
Good, then. What he said. The second time he spoke.