Demands that a Columbia Heights City Council member resign are growing after she allegedly made racist comments about a candidate running for the council and questioned his racial identity.
Justice Spriggs, one of seven candidates running for two at-large council seats, said he got a phone call last weekend from a number belonging to sitting council member KT Jacobs. The caller, Spriggs said, gave a fake name and posed as a concerned citizen, berated him about his ideals and qualifications for office, and questioned his ancestry.
Spriggs, who is biracial, shared details of the phone conversation during the open forum portion of a Monday council meeting.
"This is not about my campaign. This is about how a sitting City Council member treats the people they represent," Spriggs said. "Additionally, as someone who would like to see more transparency from City Hall, this is absolutely appalling to me that a sitting council member lied about their identity to a constituent."
Jacobs, who is not up for reelection, acknowledged in an e-mail that the call was placed from her personal cellphone, but said the call was made by an extended family member who was not authorized to use it.
"I understand that I am ultimately responsible for the consequences," Jacobs said in a statement. "As an elected official in this community, I take my duties very seriously. Words expressed by my family member to Mr. Spriggs do not in any way reflect my own opinions or values. I'm deeply sorry that the incident took place."
Jacobs said she apologized to Spriggs before the Monday meeting. She also apologized to her council colleagues and the residents of the north metro suburb, her statement said.
The council will meet in special session at 5:30 p.m. Monday to discuss a formal investigation into the matter.
On Friday, more than 200 people had signed an online petition calling for Jacobs, whose term ends in 2025, to resign. They also have planned a "KT Must Resign" rally at 5 p.m. Monday outside City Hall.
"Our community has been dealing with both overt and covert racism from community leaders for long enough, and it has to end here and now," rally organizers said in a Facebook event post. "Let's make sure that KT can not harass another Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, or any other marginalized person again from her position of leadership on the City Council."
During the two-hour phone call, the woman who contacted Spriggs asked if he was raised in a white household or Black household, if he was Black enough to call himself biracial and which of his family members were people of color, Spriggs said.
Spriggs said he replied that his grandparents married in 1968 and that his paternal grandfather was a World War II veteran who fought at D-Day.
Spriggs, who is 26 and a fourth-year medical school student at the University of Minnesota, said the incident has been disheartening and upsetting.
"As a young person trying to participate in our democracy, it is very frustrating to be called out and questioned on the basics of my identity and upbringing," he said. "I have no doubt why underrepresented people in the city don't step up to have their voices heard and participate in our democracy."