Community leaders in Charleston, South Carolina are calling for the manager of a gas station to be fired after she called the police on a group of black children after they had just finished protesting gun violence.
According to local NBC affiliate WCBD News 2, the store manager of the Murphy Express convenience store and filling station phoned 911 and complained about the protesters’ presence just after they purchased a large amount of drinks and snacks.
Here’s how part of that emergency call went:
911 dispatcher: What are they doing?
Brenda Metz: They are just standing out here, they are guns down, chucktown, something?
At another point, Metz says, “I mean, it’s like a riot out here.”
The protest organizers were stunned by Metz’s response.
Jonathan Thrower led the group of between 30-40 protesters on the “Guns down Chucktown: End to Gun Violence” walk last Sunday. In comments to News 2, he said:
We started our walk…it was a lot of kids. I had my one-year-old son with me. We just wanted to stop [at the gas station] because the kids were thirsty. It was hot…I saw a red truck pulling [up]. This white man and white lady got out of the car, he called 911 and the next thing I know, she was talking on the phone to 911 telling us to leave, and it just not make sense.
Thrower took video of Metz’s displeasure with the large group of recent customers hanging around for awhile and the clip has since gone viral after being posted on Facebook.
Gone, in the popular imagination, is Metz’s birth name. Now she’s known on the internet as “Gas Station Gail”–joining a seemingly ever-growing list of alliterative pejoratives for white women who are seemingly visibly put off by black people doing normal things in front of them.
Later in her phone call, Metz accuses the protesters of turning off the pumps.
“They keep turning the pumps off–they’re hitting the pumps down,” she says. An operator then asks if she’s in danger. “No, no, we just want a police officer to get here,” Metz replies.
Thrower said he and his group had been at the gas station for less than five minutes before Metz called the cops on them. By the time officers with the North Charleston Police Department–who were aware of the protest and had checked on the marchers intermittently prior to the confrontation–arrived, the group was already gone.
“It all happened so fast, like we were literally just standing there and boom,” he said. “The only thing I could think in the back of my mind is, ‘This lady is crazy.'”
Still, the seasoned organizer decided to use the negative experience as a teaching moment.
“This situation is applicable to situations that they are going to get into later in life,” he said. “Sometimes you have to swallow your pride even if you’re in the right and say, you know what, we will take care of this at a later date, but it’s in our best interest an everybody’s best interest to walk away professionally and with dignity and then we’ll deal with it later on.”
Still, Thrower says, the incident left many of the younger protesters upset. He noted:
A lot of the children were distraught. They were saying ‘Why is it that when we do something good, something still ends up going wrong?’
Thrower says he plans on pressing charges against Metz for making the false 911 call.
[image via screengrab]