House DFL fundraiser canceled after pushback from police group over candidate’s protest remarks

    John Thompson speaks at a protest at the home of Bob Kroll, the Minneapolis police union president, in Hugo, Minn. on Aug. 15. Photo from Unicorn Riot video

    The House DFL canceled a fundraiser featuring candidate John Thompson, an anti-police-brutality activist under fire for inflammatory rhetoric last month, after pushback from the state’s largest police group, a House DFL caucus spokesman said Monday.

    Set for Tuesday, the fundraiser drew criticism from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers (MPPO) association, which on Monday called on the House DFL to drop its support of Thompson, who won the DFL primary for a St. Paul House seat. 

    Thompson last month participated in a Black Lives Matter protest in the exurban city of Hugo at the home of Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis police union, and his wife, Liz Collin, a WCCO reporter. Thompson was captured on video at the event saying “Blue lives ain’t sh-t,” among other profanities while neighbors looked on. The protestors also took turns hitting effigy piñatas of Kroll and Collin. 

    The House DFL’s capitulation on Thompson’s appearance at the fundraiser illustrates the complex politics around police reform for the party. The House DFL caucus has become more racially diverse in recent years, with an emerging group of progressive lawmakers pushing for criminal justice reform, while suburban districts remain indispensable to their hold on the majority.  

    The protest and Thompson’s fiery words drew condemnation from law enforcement groups, including the MPPO, which called it “sickening and despicable behavior.” 

    In its Monday letter, the association said “anyone — including candidates for office — that supports Thompson’s candidacy to the Minnesota House cannot be considered a supporter of law enforcement and will not be supported by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association.”

    Thompson also drew condemnation from DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin and later apologized for his remarks. “I want to make a positive difference, and my comments on Saturday were not helpful,” he said. “Inflammatory rhetoric is not how I want to address the important issues we’re facing, and I apologize. I’m not apologizing for my passion to fight injustice.”

    Thompson was friends with Philando Castile, the St. Paul Public Schools cafeteria worker killed by police in 2016, became an activist after Castile’s death.  

    In recent months, the homes of public officials and figures have attracted protests from activists calling for police reforms and other overhauls following the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. 

    A request for comment from Thompson in response to the letter and fundraiser cancelation was not immediately returned.

    Ricardo Lopez
    Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.