Janelle Bynum, a black Oregon lawmaker currently running for a second term in the state House of Representatives, says she was going door-to-door to speak with residents in her district earlier this week when one of them called the cops on her for acting "suspicious."
According to Bynum's Facebook post about the incident, the Democratic congresswoman wrote that she was canvassing in a Clackamas, Oregon, neighborhood last Tuesday when a sheriff's deputy pulled up and stopped her. The officer apparently asked if Bynum was selling something, and when she explained that she was out meeting her constituents, she says he told her someone had called 911.
"[They] said that I was going door to door and spending a lot of time typing on my cell phone after each house—aka canvassing and keeping account of what my community cares about," Bynum wrote in her post.
While we don't know the race of the person who reported Bynum, the incident resembles the ongoing string of 911 calls white people have made to report people of color for doing absolutely nothing. Back in April, a white woman known as "BBQ Becky" went viral after she called 911 on a pair of black men having a BBQ in an Oakland park. And a few weeks ago, there was "Permit Patty"—the now-disgraced ex-CEO of a pet weed company who called the cops on an eight-year-old black girl who was selling water bottles on the street.
Bynum handled the experience of having the police called just for doing her job gracefully, all things considered. She praised the officer for handling the whole thing "professionally" and even snapped a photo with him. She also asked to meet the woman who called, but the resident apparently wasn't home at the time. Instead, the deputy got the 911 caller on the phone and let Bynum talk to her to clear up the misunderstanding.
"We talked and she did apologize," Bynum wrote in her Facebook post.
Still, she told the Oregonian that the whole thing was "just bizarre," and explained to the cop that "when people do things like this, it can be dangerous for people like me."
"It boils down to people not knowing their neighbors and people having a sense of fear in their neighborhoods, which is kind of my job to help eradicate," she said. "But at the end of the day, it's important for people to feel like they can talk to each other to help minimize misunderstandings."
Bynum told the Oregonian that she'll be back knocking on doors and meeting constituents soon—hopefully this time without the cops in tow.
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