He confronted the group of young black men when he saw them using the gym in a building of which they were all tenants just because he felt they didn't look like they "belong" there.
Another day, another white person unnecessarily calling the cops on a group of young black men. A venture capitalist by the name of Tom Austin threatened to call 911 on a group of young black entrepreneurs who were using the gym in their office building. Just days after a white woman made headlines for calling the cops "to tell them there's an African American man threatening" her life, Austin's internalized racism came calling when he saw the men using the gym in a building of which they were all tenants just because he felt they didn't look like they "belong" there.
A video of the confrontation was posted online on Tuesday by the young men, who are the owners of a Minneapolis-based social media and branding agency named Top Figure. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the company works out of a WeWork co-working space in the building which gives tenants access to all the amenities. The men were working out in the building's gym when Austin, the managing partner of F2 Group, confronted them. "I'm Tom Austin," he says int he video. "I'm a tenant in the building — are you?"
This is Tom Austin, from F2 Group, a venture capitalist. This is in Minneapolis, one day after cops killed Gregory Floyd for allegedly writing a bad check. pic.twitter.com/UIP5c6urDu— Caleb Murphree (@calebmurphree) May 27, 2020
Even after the men responded that they are, in fact, tenants in the same building, he demanded to know which office they work in and reportedly asked them to show him their key cards. When they replied that they don’t have to tell him, Austin threatened to call 911 on the group. "As you guys can see, we’re dealing with racism here," one of the men can be heard saying in the video. Posting the video to their Top Figure Instagram page, the group wrote: 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. [However] today, May 26th, 2020 7:51 pm, 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.
We’ve been in this office space and have rented and grown our business for the past 1 year and a half here. As we were working out this man approached and immediately asked us who we were and if "WE BELONG" in this building. 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, they added.
Last time I checked I’m producing identification for authority ONLY and it has to be within reasonable means, there has to be a reason I am being asked to present ID.— 🌹✨ (@erixaolivia) May 27, 2020
Y’all really don’t know your constitutional rights if you honestly believe Austin has authority to ID anyone
Austin ultimately called the building manager who confirmed that the men had every right to be there. His office lease has been terminated since the video of the incident going viral and in an interview on Wednesday, he said he regretted saying anything to the men and insisted he was not being racist. "Should have handled it differently," he said in an e-mail. "Not my job to have done anything." He added that he felt compelled to confront the men because the building had recently sent out an e-mail reminding them that only tenants were allowed to use the gym and other amenities in the building.
y’all know this stance, what are we naming him? pic.twitter.com/Nnj7UnUseH— nisa (@anisalrh) May 27, 2020
Austin claimed he felt suspicious of the group of men because he saw one person in the group using his key fob to let others into the bathroom and other doors. He further stated that they became "aggressive" when he confronted them and that a maintenance person ended up coming and talking to the group and then left. Stuart Ackerberg, CEO of Ackerberg Group, which owns the building, condemned the incident saying: "My heart hurts. This is not how we do business... I'm alarmed by what I saw." He added that he spoke to Austin on Wednesday and expressed his dismay.
It’s part of the systematic problem we have in this country. pic.twitter.com/XfNHBAXwox— 40DB (@40DBx4) May 27, 2020
"I shared with him that I did not think it was handled well and there are other ways to go about this," said Ackerberg. "It’s unfortunate. Our goal is to create a safe and inviting experience for everybody." Austin claimed he and the other men continued to work out after the confrontation. "By the end of the night, we were on talking terms," he said. "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.'"