A Black family’s weekend barbecue outing at a popular spot in Oakland could have seriously turned ugly if not for a Good Samaritan who stepped in to interrupt a racially biased phone call to the police.
Last month Michelle Snider recorded video of the incident at Lake Merritt, when she realized a white woman had called police on a Black family minding their business, under the premise that she believed they were breaking park rules by cooking.
Oakland resident Onsayo Abram says he was setting up the barbecue that morning when a random woman began to argue with him over the use of the grill. Abram claims the woman called Lake Merritt “my park” and told him, “you guys shouldn’t be here.”
“She walked up, and she was telling me that it was illegal and against the law to have a charcoal grill at the lake,” Abram told SFGATE. “I proceed to tell her, ‘Hey, there’s not a posted sign. I believe I’m in the correct area. Go on about your day and leave me alone.’ So she said, ‘No, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I’m gonna need you to shut this down, or I’m gonna call the police.’
“I’m like, ‘Do what you need to do,’” Abram recalled, “I’m gonna continue to enjoy my day.”
This is when Snider came onto the scene and quickly assessed that something was amiss with the way the woman was hyper-focusing on Abram and their group.
“This is exactly what is the problem with Oakland today,” Snider said. “This lady wants to sit here and call the police on them for having a barbecue at the lake as if this is not normal.”
When Snider, who is white, confronts the women for racial profiling, she is told that charcoal grills are “illegal” in that part of the park, and threatens the Black family with jail.
The rest of the clip is a glorious example of what happens when a true ally is sick and tired of seeing another white person cry wolf. Snider proverbially sinks her teeth into this woman and goes in on this woman as she records their interactions for over twenty minutes.
“They’ve got other things to do other than sit here and listen to another white lady complain about black people in Lake Merritt Park,” Snider says. “This is a park for everybody.”
She mocks the woman as “the f***ing coal Nazi police,” and keeps the camera focused on her face as the woman blatantly lies and tells dispatchers the family is threatening her.
When Snider follows the white woman across the street to a convenience store, in a moment of true irony the woman begins to sob and screams “I’m being harassed,” when the truth is before another white person came onto the scene she was the one who had been harassing the Black family for hours.
When a police officer finally arrives on the scene he asks Snider to back off the woman, and attempts to get an account of what transpired.
“I reported over two hours ago some people were illegally grilling in the park with a charcoal grill where they’re not supposed to, I was waiting there for a response because I was told they’re coming,” the woman says through Oscar worthy sobs. “After two hours, I just called back the non-emergency line, and in the interim these people came up and started harassing me, physically pushing me.”
The footage shows not only was she never pushed, but she was actually the one who took a card out of Snider’s hand and refused to return her property. But who needs a pesky thing like facts to get in the way when you’re making false claims about people of color right?
“I started … calling her out,” Snider told SFGATE. “If you’re here this long, is this really about charcoal and the police, or is it really because you don’t want two black men having a barbecue? … I just didn’t see any reason why there was a threat.”
Ultimately, police did not cite the family and the barbecue was allowed to continue.
The video of the altercation has gone viral since it was uploaded this week.