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Minnesota man regrets questioning black tenants in building

May 28, 2020 GMT

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota venture capitalist said it was a mistake to question a group of black businessmen about being tenants in a building after the incident went viral on social media, and he lost his office lease.

The video shows Tom Austin, a white man, saying he was going to call 911 on the group of five men when he found them using the building’s gym. Instead, he called the building’s property manager, the Star Tribune reported.

Top Figure, a social media and branding agency, posted the video Tuesday on Instagram. The company is a member of the WeWork co-working space in the building. The men who work at Top Figure could not be reached for comment.


Austin confirmed Wednesday that he lost the lease for his company, F2 Group, at Ackerberg Group’s building in Minneapolis.

“Should have handled it differently,” he said in an e-mail. “Not my job to have done anything.”

The video shows the men telling Austin that they are tenants. But Austin demands the name of office in which they work. When the group declines to tell him, Austin responds: “I’m calling 911 then.”

Austin said he was suspicious of the men being tenants because one person used their key fob for others in the group.

Top Figure noted on Instagram that the video is showing racial profiling.

“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,” Top Figure said on Instagram.

But Austin insisted he was not being racist.

Stuart Ackerberg, CEO of Ackerberg Group, said two WeWork members used their key fobs to access the gym. He assumes the other people were also Top Figure employees.

“I shared with him that I did not think it was handled well and there are other ways to go about this,” Ackerberg said of speaking with Austin.

This incident comes in the same week that a white woman was fired from her job after a viral video showed her calling 911 on a black man who asked her follow Central Park’s rules and put a leash on her dog. Another viral video shows a white police officer in Minneapolis kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, who died. Four officers were fired.