Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Katie Gilliam verbally attacked with racial slurs; Destin, FL police couldn't care less

At the end of the work week, Katie Gilliam wanted to relax. She went to the Wal-Mart she frequents three to four times a week to unwind with a manicure and pedicure. But her tension skyrocketed when she returned to her car, parked in a disabled spot. Under her windshield, she found an admonition to obey the speed limits accompanied by a racial slur.

Feeling shocked, frightened, and threatened, she locked herself in a car and called the police. “I was scared. I remember telling the dispatcher that ‘I was going to do whatever I had to do to protect myself.’ ”

Upon arrival, the police found some pretty solid clues as to who was stalking and harassing Ms. Gilliam. Security tapes showed "a white male in a white Ford Explorer pull up next to her vehicle and place something on the windshield." The note was left on paper that had a State Farm policy number. Both of these are clear indications that this man was not too careful about not being caught, and, with a couple of hours of police work, could easily be apprehended.

But what did the police decide to do in light of this clear threat against Ms. Gilliam?

Nothing.

They told her that if she wanted to find her stalker, she could do it herself:
When The Log contacted the Sheriff’s Office Tuesday, public information officer Michele Nicholson said the complaint was originally filed under criminal mischief, but since no damage had actually occurred to Gilliam’s vehicle, the incident would be treated “more like a harassment issue.”


“There are currently no leads, since the video footage from Wal-Mart didn’t provide a good shot of the person and they could not be identified,” she said.
Gilliam didn’t buy that answer.


“There was a State Farm policy number on the envelope,” she said. “They can start by calling them. I am not going to do the sheriff’s job for them; I am a taxpayer.”


After she was informed of the envelope of the identification number, Nicholson said there was no reason to contact the company and proceed because the “case was not criminal.”


“Because of the way the statues read, there is nothing for us to pursue,” she said, adding that Gilliam was free to pursue civil action against the perpetrator if she could identify him.
Gilliam is not overdoing it when she calls this act terrorism later in the article. The writer of the note has stalked her enough to know things about her; how she drives, her race. He is targeting her: he is making her to feel uncomfortable, terrified, and unsafe because of her status as a woman of color with disabilities.

Gilliam is not imagining things; her recipient of racial harassment grew out of a social and individual need to terrify and stalk women at marginalized intersections. Her harasser's note was not benign, not an isolated incident: it implied that she was being watched, that if she didn't play nice, didn't drive the right speed, she would be subject to further harassment, and possibly violence. It violated a space that she clearly regarded as safe and turned it into a space fraught with terror, with no protection.

The police's blase response is a reflection of institutionalized racism on more than one level. The officers on the police force are not willing to take a taxpayer's fear and discomfort seriously because of her marginalized status; they completely erase the potential danger she may face by pursuing the person who is threatening her with vile slurs. The law makers they hide behind have declined to write laws protecting citizens from attacks based on race or disability from criminal law. Furthermore, they apparently don't have very strong laws against stalking or harassment, a crime that disproportionately affects women.

The police of Destin, Florida are sending a clear message by dismissing and minimizing Ms. Gilliam's complaint. They are clearly stating that the lives, safety, and comfort of people of color, people with disabilities, and women are not valuable, not worth police time; they are giving stalkers and harassers who target people on the margins carte blanche to do as they please without repercussion.

Related reading: Domino's Pizza delivered with racial attack on Carla Robinson

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3 comments:

  1. If law enforcement refused to perform their duties, they should be held accountable for their negligence. They should track down the harasser, not advise this woman to "pursue civil action ... if she could identify him".

    :: screams ::

    ReplyDelete
  2. Had the cops been doing their jobs in the first place, this woman would have been pulled over and ticketed for speeding. Drivers need to be held accountable for their actions regardless of skin colour, ability, gender, or age and, had he not included a racial slur, I would have applauded his actions.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You know whose job it is to police drivers, Julia? The police. Not this douchebag. His actions are creepy and over the line regardless; he doesn't have any kind of radar and has no idea how fast she's going.

    ReplyDelete

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