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Black State Lawmaker Has Police Called on Her as She Campaigns in Her Own District

3 minute read

A black Oregon state lawmaker was canvassing in her district when one of her constituents called the police.

Oregon State Rep. Janell Bynum, who is running for reelection this fall, was knocking on the doors of her constituents in Clackamas County — just southeast of Portland — on Tuesday when an officer arrived, she said in a post on Facebook that included a photo of her and the officer smiling together.

Bynum said she was “canvassing and keeping account of what (her) community cares about,” but was instead deemed as “suspicious” enough by one of her constituents for them to call the cops. In an interview with The Oregonian, Bynum said the officer told her a person called to report someone who was spending a long time outside of homes in the neighborhood.

She asked the officer to meet the person who reported her to the cops and spoke to her on the phone, when the constituent apologized.

“It was just bizarre,” Bynum told the newspaper. “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. 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’s experience is just the latest instance of people calling the police on black Americans and people of color for for doing everyday activities. There were the two men sitting in a Starbucks in Philadelphia, the Yale graduate student sleeping in her dorm’s study lounge, the two men having a cookout in Oakland and the women checking out of an Airbnb in California — all of whom had the cops called on them. The events have resulted in a number of responses, including a company-wide call to action at Starbucks to prevent racial bias and when hundreds turned out in Oakland for a picnic called “Barbecuing While Black.”

As for Bynum, she told the Oregonian the experience helped inform her role as a state lawmaker.

“We all know that we’re not in a society that is perfect, and we have wounds that still need to heal, but at the end of the day, I want to know my kids can walk down the street without fear,” she said.

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