I am writing this open letter in response to correspondence I received from several Montclairions who expressed righteous indignation stemming from the fact that it appears as though in the Township of Montclair, a resident, Susan, or any other white racist, can freely and intentionally interfere with black residents, in the free exercise of their constitutional and statutorily protected rights, with impunity.
The correspondence I received was in response to a black family, having been harassed by a white neighbor for over a year. The situation spiraled out of control when recently, as the black family was on their property working to enhance the property, Unhinged Susan, a white female, approached them and became verbally abusive. So aggreges and menacing was her behavior that at one point one of the parents asked the other to take the children into the house, as their minor children were observing the bizarre behavior. At one point, Unhinged Susan intentionally, wantonly, and recklessly solicited the involvement of the Montclair Police Department in the matter, by knowingly and willfully making an untrue complaint against residents, with the intent of interfering with them in the free exercise of their constitutionally and statutorily protected rights. Susan’s actions immediately cast a pall on the family, disrupted the family from engaging in lawful actions on their property, caused them fear, trepidation, and a sense of insecurity, while engaging in activities well within their rights on their property.
One person who wrote to me recommended a review of police procedures and training as a way of better equipping the Montclair Police Department to handle situations such as that arising from the actions of Susan. To my knowledge, there is no suggestion that the Montclair Police Department failed to respond appropriately on that day.
Training by Montclair elected officials and executives may be in order. For, it appears to me that it may be a civil offense or a crime for a person to falsely report an incident to the police. If falsely reporting an incident to the police with the intent of interfering with the person(s) in the free exercise of their constitutionally and statutorily protected rights, or casting them in a false light, is not a civil offense or a crime in Montclair, the Town Council should explore making it both a civil and criminal offense. The New York law might be instructive, under which Amy Cooper was charged–the 41 year old white woman who was caught on video threatening to call the police on a black man in Central Park, stating that she was “going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” when there were no such threats.
Perhaps under current State laws, policies, and practices, or under the US. Constitution and perhaps the State Constitution, what Susan did may be actionable by Township officials and others tasked with upholding the laws of our township. The Township and all of us who are freedom-loving people, who reside in Montclair should support such an action. Many people, like the family involved in the referenced matter, moved here three years ago, in part, because of its reputation as a welcoming community that values and works to ensure diversity, inclusion, and dignity of all persons. That people not only from the immediate neighborhood, but residents from across the Township went to the residence of the family under assault to lend support or simply stand in solidarity was uplifting; another testament of who we Montclairions are. That the neighbors who witnessed the dastardly lies told by Susan to the police, immediately indicated that Susan’s story was simply farcical, was another heartwarming indication of who we Montclairions are.
I am respectfully requesting that Township Attorney Karasick explore the full range of laws available to the Township and/or the victimized family for meting out justice for the pernicious and unseemly actions of Susan. Unhinged Susan cannot simply return to her residence exposed for her dastardly deeds that are of dubious legality, and which caused anticipated damages. Susan must be called to atone for her actions under the laws she may have violated.
I am not a lawyer, and I am not offering legal advice, but it seems to me that if there are no other adequate laws to bring Susan to justice, the counsel might explore actions under the United States Constitution, especially the Reconstruction Acts designed to protect blacks against both private citizens and government actors from interfering with black people, and later others, while engaging in private protected actions, going and coming in a township as they please, and otherwise living as good citizens, under 42 USC 1983 and1981.
Given that Susan’s actions occurred in the midst of the Black Lives Matter Movement—dubbed the Third Reconstruction– the U.S. Department of Justice might be called upon to determine whether Susan’s actions are actionable under the U.S. Hate Crimes Act; and the State’s Attorney might have a cause of action against Susan under a New Jersey Hate Crimes Act.
I agree with those who have written and called me. Something more must be done. I stand ready to do whatever I can to be of assistance in this matter. As a life-long resident of Montclair and champion of all its residents, I will continue working indefatigably to prod the Township to realize the ideals upon which Montclair stands, and those that attract people to move and to remain in our Town.
With thanksgiving and joy,
Renee E. Baskerville, M.D.
One Voice, Montclair!