CALDWELL — The mother of a 9-year-old girl told City Council a neighbor called the police about her daughter when she was spray-painting for spotted lanternflies in a hoodie.
During the Nov. 1 meeting, Monique Joseph said neighbor Gordon Lawshe called 911 about a “little black woman” spraying the sidewalk. The person was actually her daughter, who is less than 5 feet tall.
“There’s a little black woman walking and spraying stuff on the sidewalks and trees. I don’t know what the hell she’s doing but it scares me,” Joseph Lawshe told police. She said Lawshe said the person was wearing a hoodie but the hood was not up.
“It is disgusting and frightening to hear my neighbor use inciting words that have led to the deaths of too many black and brown children and adults at the hands of the police. ,Black’. ‘Hooded Pullover.’ ‘I’m afraid.’ Those are triggered words,” Joseph said, adding that their use was “ruthless.”
She said the use of those words was intentional and that the situation could have had a worse outcome. She commended the Caldwell Police Officer’s response. Joseph said her daughter was afraid to go outside the next day.
“It’s unfortunate that she understands exactly what could have happened to her had we lived elsewhere in this country,” Joseph said.
A teachable moment?
She hopes this incident can become an educational moment about racial prejudice, diversity, justice and inclusion, and that “little black and brown kids in this town can feel safe in this community.”
Joseph said that while her intentions are not political, she is aware that Lawshe is a leader and treasurer of the Caldwell Republican Committee. Lawshe is the Membership Director for the Caldwell Community Center, according to his LinkedIn page.
“I ask his party to tell me whether you condone this behavior? I’d like to know your point of view,” Joseph said. “I would like to repeat my opening speech. Racism, intentional or not, is racism. That’s the dialogue I’d like to have.”
Mayor John Kelley, who attended the meeting remotely, said he was sorry Joseph and her daughter had this experience.
“It’s not something that’s part of Caldwell. It just isn’t. It saddens me and I’m glad you shared this with us and the public,” Kelley said.
TikTok showed a formula for a lantern fly spray
Joseph said her daughter’s work in trying to eliminate the threat of the destructive spotted lanternfly was reported in local newspaper The Progress.
The girl’s 13-year-old sister spoke to the council and told them how her younger sister learned the formula for lanternfly spray on TikTok.
“Not only did she do something amazing for our environment, she did something that made her feel like a hero. Our neighbor across the street saw my sister spraying the trees with the solution and didn’t know what she was doing,” Hayden said. “Instead, he decided it would be appropriate to call the police about my sister.”
According to the 2020 US Census, Caldwell has a population of 8,831: 78.2% of the population is White, 4.4% is Black or African American alone.
New Jersey 101.5 was unable to find contact information for Lawshe.
Lawshe’s attorney, Greg Mascera, told The Daily Beast, which first reported his client calling the police but denied it was racially motivated and that he was a “good guy”. Mascera called Joseph’s statement that her daughter was afraid of the police “absurd”.
Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]
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