A white woman's call to police over black family having a Sunday barbecue in a California park sparks outcry after video of the racist encounter goes viral https://t.co/SYwl4U4jLv pic.twitter.com/yD6cuMIWzv— DAILY SABAH (@DailySabah) May 11, 2018
A video of a confrontation between a white woman and a black family barbecuing in a California park went viral last week, underlining continued high racial tensions in the United States.
In the video captured on April 29 by Michelle Snider, a black family and friends were cooking out along Lake Merritt in Oakland when a white woman told the group they could not have their barbecue there using a charcoal grill. She then called the police, accusing the group of "trespassing," before being placed on hold.
When Snider and her husband confronted the woman, the incident escalated as both sides claimed they were being harassed by the other.
Snider asked the woman what was the matter, and she repeated that the group was not allowed to barbecue with charcoal in the park.
"Are you sure it's not because you don't want black people out here?" Snider asked the woman, who responded, "It has nothing to do with their race."
Snider told the woman her accusations seemed like "Jim Crow," considering the group was "sitting out here just chilling."
"And this whole setup is real clean. They're not even playing music," Snider said, growing increasingly angry at the woman on the phone.
"It's not about it being clean," the woman responded, referencing her call with the Oakland Police.
One of the members of the cookout group said the woman told them they would go to prison soon for their Sunday morning activities.
According to the official Oakland Park and Rec map of Lake Merrit, the park area has six designated barbecue spots, three for charcoal and three non-charcoal grill areas. The group had chosen a non-charcoal grill spot for their cookout, prompting the white woman's reaction.
"It causes extra money from our city to do things when children get injured because of improperly disposed coals," the woman told Snider.
As Snider continued pressuring the woman and recording her, she began to cry, saying she was being harassed.
The Oakland Police later arrived on the scene, but only took down a police report, issued no citations and allowed the cookout to continue.
After the incident, local officials suggested community members find better ways to resolve disputes than calling emergency personnel.
"I think it is really incumbent on all of us that when we call police, it is for emergency purposes," Oakland City Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney said after the incident.
"I want to encourage people to know when to call the police [and] when to raise a question of regulations with the city council," she wrote in a Facebook post.
The barbecue adds to a list of similar incidents in the U.S. in recent weeks in which white people have called the police on minorities for apparently-harmless activities, including sitting at Starbucks, participating in a college campus tour, taking a nap and staying at an Airbnb.