John Thompson speaks, sort of

DFL state representative John Thompson is a bully, thug, liar, and race hustler supreme. He made a name for himself threatening to burn down Hugo, Minnesota, in a threatening diatribe outside the home of then Minneapolis police union president Bob Kroll last summer. As a result of his good works, he was elected to the legislature in November 2020 from St. Paul’s East Side.

Thompson has held a Wisconsin driver’s license ever since he moved to Minnesota, assuming he moved to Minnesota. He has held a Wisconsin driver’s license since 2000. Indeed, he renewed it in November 2020, around the same time he was elected to the legislature. To obtain his Wisconsin license he swore he was a Wisconsin resident. Further, he was obligated to secure a Minnesota driver’s license within 60 days of moving to Minnesota.

In the early morning hours of July 4 Thompson was stopped by a St. Paul police sergeant because his car lacked a license plate on the front. He displayed his Wisconsin driver’s license while the officer found that Thompson’s driving privileges in Minnesota were under revocation as a result of a failed child support obligation (subsequently remedied).

I take it that Thompson was ineligible to drive with a Minnesota driver’s license and may have been ineligible to drive in the state, period. Assuming he is a Minnesota resident, Thompson had obtained his Wisconsin driver’s license under false pretenses.

Performing his race hustle last week outside the governor’s mansion in St. Paul, Thompson alleged that he had been a victim of driving while black. Having reviewed the bodycam footage of Thompson’s encounter with the officer himself, St. Paul police chief Todd Axtell reported that the stop was by the book and called for Thompson to authorize the release of the bodycam footage. See my post “What Rep. John Thompson represents.”

Thompson has refused all requests for interviews. Rather, he has enlisted the necessary assistance to craft an evasive and question-begging statement that purports to address the issues raised by these events. In the statement Thompson makes no mention of the revocation of his driving privileges under Minnesota law. He notes, however, that he was ticketed for driving under suspension of what must have been his Wisconsin driver’s license.

Thompson asserts over and over again in the statement that the stop was pretextual. I believe this to be misleading, although this depends on what is meant by “pretextual.” However the word is defined, we can infer to a certainty Thompson’s race had nothing to do with the stop. Thus Thompson’s statement represents more shtick.

Thompson acknowledges that his interaction with the officer was by the book. The gist of Thompson’s statement — that he was the subject of some racially motivated wrongdoing — is a lie. Referring to his “emotions,” Thompson implies that the bodycam footage will not show him in a favorable light. It will show him performing his hustle with the officer. That is how I read what he is saying.

Thompson’s statement is posted here. I have posted it in its entirety below the break. This crock compounds his misconduct. There should be more to come.

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Five years ago last week, we marked the killing of my friend Philando Castile, who was shot by a police officer during a traffic stop. Since being pulled over myself on July 4, my greatest regret is how the recent events have allowed us to overlook this time that should have been spent reflecting on the life of my friend and the changes that are needed to create a Minnesota where he would not have lost his life.

I was pulled over in what is referred to as a pretextual traffic stop. The same type of stop that led to the killing of Philando, as well as Daunte Wright this April. Pretextual stops have been shown to not only do little to stop serious crimes, but they also disproportionately target nonwhites. This was the racial profiling I spoke to, and I’ve been working to get rid of these types of stops long before this summer.

There have been calls to release the bodycam footage from my stop, which I want to make clear I fully support. It is within the power of the St. Paul Police to release that footage, and I am not a barrier to that. In the video, you won’t see the officer do anything that isn’t by the book, but the issue is we need to rewrite the book. I do not know the officer who pulled me over, and I have no reason to believe they have any hate towards me specifically. Officers do, however, work in a system that has allowed these too often pretextual traffic stops to continue despite tragic consequences.

As much as I hate how recent coverage of this issue has been about me, I recognize I have an obligation to my constituents, and owe them an explanation. I have an obligation for Black men who don’t have the platform that I do. I’m pushing legislation for more police accountability, and this situation is a great example of why that work matters.

During my stop, it was brought up that my vehicle did not have a front license plate, I did not have a Minnesota driver’s license, and there was a record of me having missed a child support payment. While all of these have relatively simple explanations, I take responsibility for my fault in not addressing these issues and allowing them to eclipse the hard-fought work done in the name of police reform.

My family bought a new car, and as with any new vehicle, we had to wait for our plates and get the proper tools to attach them. Not long after purchasing this car, it was rear-ended, and we did not drive the vehicle for some time. When I did drive the car on July 4, it should have had a front license plate, but I didn’t have the right part for the front bracket. After I was stopped, they ran my license, which is a Wisconsin driver’s license. I previously lived in Wisconsin, and my family and I considered moving back there to care for a family member, who will now be coming to live here. I live and work in St. Paul, and have for many years. My Wisconsin license hadn’t previously posed an issue for me, but I will now be changing it to a Minnesota license, as I should have before. During my stop, I was also informed that my license had been suspended for a minor child support issue, one which was resolved long ago. I owe $0 in child support.

After all of this, I was only given a ticket for driving with a suspended license. I do not know why I wasn’t cited for driving without the front license plate – the reason for my stop.

I was able to drive away from this interaction while other Black Minnesotans, in very similar situations, have not. The desire to be treated with respect and be able to drive away from this interaction safely was why I informed the officer I was a State Representative during our conversation. Too many Minnesotans are dealing with barriers like this without a respectable title in front of their name. Philando was notably pulled over 49 times, largely for minor violations. I believe these pretextual stops are part of structures that operate to restrict access to jobs and housing, lock us up, and publicly humiliate Black, Indigenous, and communities of color. Interactions like this block us from our families, block us from our kids, and create new barriers to a quality of life.

We need better, and that’s what I’m working towards. I understand that my emotions can sometimes make it hard for some people to hear the real message. These are difficult issues, and I’ve lost loved ones, but I ask you to work with me. We need a broad coalition, including law enforcement, to come together to understand that Minnesotans that look like me – my family, friends, and community – are living with these issues every day. I hope we can focus on conversations that center around making that change possible.