A Minnesota venture capitalist lost his office space after he threatened to call 911 on a group of Black businessmen who were using a gym in a co-working space.
The incident occurred on May 26 at a WeWork office space in the Mozaic East building in Uptown Minneapolis, reported the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Top Figure, a marketing agency based in the building, shared a video of the incident on Instagram. The men who were profiled work for the company.
“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 wrote on Instagram.
In the video, a white man introduced himself and demanded to know why they were in the gym.
“I’m Tom Austin,” he told the group. “I’m a tenant in the building — are you?”
The men said they were, but Austin was not satisfied and asked what office they were in. When the Top Figure group refused to reveal that information, Austin took out his phone and threatened to call the police. The video cuts to Austin on the phone explaining his side of the situation. He later said he called the building manager instead of the police.
The video was viewed more than 61,000 times on Instagram and circulated on other social media platforms.
“What kind of bs is this?? The impulse with which white folks utilize to call the police clearly shows their intent and goal,” wrote one Instagram commenter. “They know the police do not value black lives and thus weaponize their white privilege every chance they get. Disgusted but not surprised.”
“Affluent white people feel their status is lowered when black people are able to occupy the same space as them,” someone wrote on Twitter.
Austin’s behavior caused his company, F2 Group, to lose its lease in the building.
The Mozaic Building is owned by the Ackerberg Group. Stuart Ackerberg, the company’s CEO, told the Star Tribune he was upset by the video.
“This is not how we do business,” he said. “I’m alarmed by what I saw.”
Ackerberg reportedly spoke to Austin personally to convey his disapproval.
“I shared with him that I did not think it was handled well and there are other ways to go about this,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. Our goal is to create a safe and inviting experience for everybody.”
Austin told Bring Me The News his side of the story, one that casts the encounter in the video differently.
“Several of these guys were trespassing and using a private gym that was authorized only for building tenants,” he told the outlet in an email. “Seems like nobody cares about the complete truth.”
He told BMTN the men became aggressive after he questioned their presence.
“One of the tenants brought 4 friends and I complained to them that this isn’t right and it’s unfair to the tenants who pay,” he said. “They got in my face in a very threatening manner and I threatened back to call building security.”
Austin later admitted he regretted approaching the men.
“Yes, I f—-d up. Should have handled it differently,” he wrote in a subsequent email to BMTN.
The venture capitalist insisted his actions were not racially motivated and he was chummy with the Top Figure group after the conflict was over.
“I would have done this regardless of race. In fact, I told them I’d have done the same thing if they were white, or even a bunch of girls who were trespassing,” Austin continued. “What surprises me is that we worked out in gym together for another 45 minutes after I had already apologized to them for making them feel it was a race issue, when in fact it was not.”