Tom Austin, a white businessman, has been forced to accept the dire consequences of his self-inflicted wounds after he confronted several black men who are also entrepreneurs attempting to use a gym.
The incident took place in Minnesota just hours after George Floyd, an African American man, died in custody after a shocking encounter with Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on his neck during his arrest for a fake 20-dollar bill.
Austin, a venture capitalist in Minneapolis, can be seen in the now-viral Twitter video pulling out his phone and quickly threatening to call the police because he was suspicious of the men in the building.
For several minutes, Austin, the managing partner of F2 Group (F2 Intelligence Group), decided to put the heads and owners of Top Figure, a Minneapolis-based social media, and branding agency through police-like interrogation.
The now-former CEO, (that is what he said on Thursday), asked the group of black men to reveal their identities, their place of work and demanded to know how they did get access to the WeWork coworking space in the building.
The men repeated over and over that they are allowed to use the amenities and refused to answer Austin’s questions.
Austin did not call the authorities, but he ultimately contacted Stuart Ackerberg, CEO of Ackerberg Group, which owns the MoZaic East building.
The building manager confirmed to Austin that the men did indeed have a lease in the building and have the right to use the gym.
Ackerberg, who did not approve of Austin’s actions, has decided to terminate the venture capitalist’s office lease.
In a brief statement, Ackerberg addressed the death of the African American man by saying that his heart broke after seeing the videos of Floyd who died of asphyxiation and added: “My heart hurts. This is not how we do business. … I’m alarmed by what I saw.”
Austin also spoke publicly about the incident by saying that he regrets questioning the black entrepreneurs using the gym.
He told the Tribune the black men were aggressive and added: “I said, ‘I’m sorry you thought I was being racist, but I was not. If you were a bunch of women, I would have done the same thing.’”
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Normally we don’t speak out about encounters of racial profiling and age discrimination that we face day to day in our lives as young black entrepreneurs. Although today May 26th 2020 7:51pm we encountered a situation where a man entered the facility, a shared private gym that we utilize in our @wework @mozaic_east office located in uptown Minnesota. Granted we’ve been in this office space and have rented and grown our business for the past 1 year and half here. As we were working out this man approached and immediately asked us who we were and if “WE BELONG” in this building. Granted in order to enter the building you NEED a key card to enter EVERY part of the building which EACH of our team members individually have. We all pay rent here and this man demanded that we show him our key cards or he will call the cops on us. We are sick and tired of tolerating this type of behavior on a day to day basis and we feel that we had to bring light onto this situation.
Austin has since deleted his profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media platforms. The video has received thousands of comments on Instagram from people who are saddened by what they saw.
One supporter, who is Caucasian, reached out to the men with this sympathetic message: “I hope that people with my skin color will treat you with respect and protect your safety today and every day ❤️.”
An African American woman shared her thoughts with this comment: “Why do some white people believe we can’t afford what they ican.. nit’s 2020 cand they still think this inferiorly. The reckless and cavalier manner in which white people call the cops on black Americans needs to be treated more seriously than being accountable for filing a false report. This attempted murder.”
A heartbroken backer wrote: “I am so sorry you have to deal with this. I am crying reading this. Stay your course s, and don’t let it change who you are as hard as it may be. Sending you hugs!!”
In 2017, Austin made waves in another race-related incident when he opposed the renaming of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska in honor of the region’s Native American history.
The lake was originally named after slave owner John C. Calhoun.
Austin said the “white establishment did not need to atone” for a “damn thing” and added: “American Indian activists seem to have hijacked the discussion. What is the heroism or accomplishment that we are recognizing in order to justify renaming the lake to Bde Maka Ska?”
The issue of racial profiling is diving the nation at the moment with some advocating for a revolution, while others are pushing a more conservative approach.