Woman Calls 911 on Black Lawmaker Campaigning in Neighborhood

'It was just bizarre,' Oregon lawmaker says
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 5, 2018 2:52 AM CDT
Updated Jul 5, 2018 4:03 AM CDT
Cops Called on Black Lawmaker Canvassing in Own District
In this Jan. 9, 2017 file photo, Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon and Rep. Janelle Bynum, right, high-five after members of the House of Representatives are sworn into office at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Ore.   (Molly J. Smith/Statesman-Journal via AP, File)

A resident who called police about a black woman behaving "suspiciously" in her neighborhood may have been surprised to learn that it was her state representative. Oregon state Rep. Janelle Bynum says she was canvassing alone in a Portland-area neighborhood, knocking on doors, talking to people, and taking notes on her phone, when a sheriff's deputy turned up and asked if she was selling something, the AP reports. Bynum says the deputy told her somebody had called 911 and told dispatchers she appeared to be casing the neighborhood. She says the deputy, at her request, called and explained the situation to the apologetic woman, who said she called 911 for the "safety of her neighborhood."

Bynum, a Democrat, has represented House District 51 since 2016. "It was just bizarre," she tells the Oregonian. "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, 43, says she has knocked on more than 70,000 doors in her political career and this is the first time somebody has reported her to police. She says the deputy was courteous and professional, but she wishes the resident had tried talking to her first. ("Permit Patty" ended up leaving her own company after threatening to call police on an 8-year-old black girl who was selling water without a permit.)

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