The Potluck

Thompson says he won’t resign as Trump supporter wreaks havoc at presser

By: - July 26, 2021 1:31 pm

Thomas Berry, program director of the Black Civic Network, speaks in support of Rep. John Thompson at a press conference Monday as a Trump supporter disrupted the event by spinning donuts on the Capitol grounds before being stopped by police. Screenshot via Facebook livestream by Mercado Media.

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Rep. John Thompson, DFL-St. Paul, said Monday he will not resign under pressure despite questions about whether he lives in his district and recent news of domestic violence allegations against him in police reports 11 to 18 years ago.

Thompson spoke briefly, saying he couldn’t speak at length due to “legal ramifications,” and declined to answer questions about where he lives due to safety concerns.

“If you’re not careful, the oppressor will have you believe they’re the ones being oppressed,” he said. “I will not remain silent. I will not be resigning.”

Thompson made the comments during a tumultuous press conference outside the State Capitol, interrupted when a middle-aged white woman drove a rusty Chevy Trailblazer with a Trump flag onto the Capitol sidewalk near the press conference before being stopped by police, who told her to drive to the road. Instead, she proceeded to drive onto the Capitol lawn, spinning donuts on the grass before again being stopped by two State Patrol troopers, who boxed in her SUV and took her keys.

Several officers surrounded her SUV as Thompson’s press conference resumed, and she was still in the vehicle when it ended, getting increasingly agitated as onlookers surrounded the scene. The woman — who was alternately smoking, spitting, flipping people off, talking to her doctor on the phone and displaying the Trump flag and Bible — could be heard yelling and complaining about the election. The St. Paul Police mental health unit was called, and an ambulance and firetruck briefly responded, too.

At the press conference, Thompson’s wife and other supporters of Thompson said he’s being held to a higher standard than other lawmakers who have blemishes on their records, too.

They also said the way law enforcement treated the woman who drove onto the Capitol lawn illustrates the disparate treatment of white and Black Minnesotans: She was told to drive to the road so she could be cited after driving on the sidewalk, then after trespassing again, police talked to her for more than an hour without searching or handcuffing her.

Following news of a July Fourth traffic stop that put Thompson’s Minnesota residency in question, Fox 9 reported several police reports in Wisconsin and Minnesota alleging domestic abuse by Thompson between 2003 and 2010. Since then, a bevy of Democratic and Republican leaders have called on Thompson to resign, but he has resisted.

Activist Jonathan Mason called the allegations against Thompson character assassination, and “the same tactics white supremacists use.”

Thomas Berry, program director of the Black Civic Network, questioned why the press and lawmakers are scrutinizing Thompson’s personal life but not others who have been accused of things like drunk driving or insider trading. “They’re allegations, not convictions,” Berry said. “You’re presumed innocent until proven guilty, unless you’re Black in America.”

Black Lives Matter Minnesota President Trahern Crews accused Democrats of failing to support Thompson’s legislative work helping Black people.

Over an hour after the press conference began, the woman was still sitting in her SUV as police stood by. Bystanders began engaging with her as she started sniffing something from a bag and said she needed marijuana.

“I hope you get the help you need,” a man said to the woman, who told him she went to the Capitol because nobody listened to her. She said she was from Beaver Lake and drove all around the city with the Trump flag and happened upon the press conference.

About an hour and a half after the press conference began, state troopers put the woman in the back of an unmarked car, without handcuffing her.

“Burn in hell, (expletive)!” she yelled, with her arms raised before getting in the back of an unmarked State Patrol squad car, lying down and yelling as she was driven away.

Department of Public Safety spokesman Bruce Gordon said later Monday Tammi Jeka, 52, of Saint Paul, was taken into custody and transported to Regions Hospital for evaluation. The State Patrol will forward the case to the Saint Paul city attorney for consideration of charges, including reckless driving, Gordon said.

Updated at 6:30 p.m. to include DPS information.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.

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