The consequences were swift for yet another White man flashing his badge of privilege on a group of Black men who were doing nothing wrong.
Tom Austin, who is White, is a managing partner of the F2 Intelligence Group and was leasing an office at the Mozaic East building in Minneapolis, Minnesota's Uptown.
When he saw a group of Black men working out in the building's gym, the color of their skin signaled to him that they didn't belong.
The suspicious Austin confronted the men and asked if they were tenants in the building.
Every. Time. I. Try. To. Get. Back. To. Work. ANOTHER ONE! Toooooooooom Austin! You're the next contestant on that… https://t.co/F6U89oj1ex— W. Kamau Bell (@W. Kamau Bell) 1590614953.0
But when they refused to provide proof to satisfy some man they didn't know, Austin threatened to call the police.
One of the five men in the group filmed Austin accosting them and demanding to know who they work for. The video went viral.
A voice can be heard of one of the men identifying the situation transpiring in real time.
"As you guys can see, we're dealing with racism here."
Austin said he was going to call the police on the men but wound up reporting them to the building's property manager instead.
The men are the owners of Top Figure—a Minneapolis-based social media and branding agency—and were working out of a WeWork co-working space in the building and were therefore entitled to use the facilities. They also don't work for any company in the building—they OWN a company in the building.
Top Figure posted the unsettling interaction on their Instagram page and wrote, in part:
"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."
"We all pay rent here and this man demanded that we show him our key cards or he will call the cops on us."
The social post generated more than 20,000 likes on Twitter by Wednesday.
Cops called on black men again. This time it’s a white man in Minneapolis instead of a white woman in Central Park.… https://t.co/RjAKOQopw5— Read Mutual Aid by Dean Spade (@Read Mutual Aid by Dean Spade) 1590594945.0
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Austin said he was going to call 911 but wound up calling the building's property manager. A maintenance worker showed up, talked to the men and then left.
As a result of the viral video, Austin's venture capitalist office lease was terminated. It took until the online backlash and his company losing its lease for him to acknowledge his indiscretion.
He expressed his regrets in an email sent to the Tribune, saying:
"Should have handled it differently. Not my job to have done anything."
Racism on display in the same city, hours after #GeorgeFloyd death. White man calls cops on Black men at Minneapoli… https://t.co/pcUXu0XVib— Wendell Pierce (@Wendell Pierce) 1590635078.0
Austin maintained he was not a racist, of course.
He said he was only upholding the building's policy for using amenities—which is not his job—when he noticed only one of the five men had a visible key fob that is required to enter the gym—but not mandated to remain visible at all times. Austin has as yet not provided all the instances when he approached White men or women to demand to see their key fobs and to ask what company they work for.
He added—as is also usually the case when racist behavior is recorded—that the men became "aggressive" when he confronted them.
He concluded the statement by saying everything turned out to be civil.
"By the end of the night, we were on talking terms."
"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'."
Stuart Ackerberg, CEO of Ackerberg Group, which owns Mozaic East was disheartened after seeing the video.
"My heart hurts ... This is not how we do business. … I'm alarmed by what I saw."
Ackerberg reached out to Austin on Wednesday expressed his weariness over the former tenant's actions.
"I shared with him that I did not think it was handled well and there are other ways to go about this."
"It's unfortunate. Our goal is to create a safe and inviting experience for everybody."
Top Figure's Instagram post added:
"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."
The incident unfortunately follows two other viral videos displaying racially-motivated confrontations within a week.
@ajplus @BiancaJagger So he decided to be THAT GUY, in this week. The week of George Floyd and Christian Cooper. Gr… https://t.co/vxwTBvsvze— Teaching Online (again) and in-Person, in a Mask (@Teaching Online (again) and in-Person, in a Mask) 1590633261.0
The first video was of Amy Cooper—a White woman—getting into an argument and calling the police on Christian Cooper a Black bird-watcher—whose surname is of no relation to the woman—in Central Park who told her to leash her dog in an area that required for all dogs to be on a leash.
The woman was subsequently fired from her job.
The other video was of a White police officer in Minneapolis who was kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man being detained for "resisting arrest." He repeatedly said that he couldn't breathe.
Floyd was declared dead at a hospital, sparking a citywide protest on Tuesday night.