The internet has just inducted Gas Station Brenda into the Hashtag Hall of Racism Fame.
A white woman who identified herself only as Brenda called the police Sunday on a group of black people who were standing outside a Murphy Express gas station in North Charleston, South Carolina. The group, which included many children, were in the area for a peaceful anti-violence protest, which had ended at Otranto Road in front of the gas station.
The woman claimed that the group was “destroying” the outside of the gas station, according to an audio recording of the call obtained by the Charleston City Paper.
Jonathan Thrower, a community activist who filmed the incident, told the City Paper that the group had stopped at the gas station to buy drinks for the younger demonstrators.
“She is the Manager at Murphy’s Gas Station,” Thrower wrote on Facebook, where he goes by the name of Shakem Akhet. “She says she doesn’t care about our money, just leave the store. We stopped there to get the children some drinks after we walked a mile during our Rally.”
Murphy USA, the parent company of Murphy Express, did not respond to HuffPost’s questions on whether the woman was a manager at the gas station and if security footage exists showing signs of misconduct.
Thrower’s video is the latest documentation of a white person calling the police on people of color for apparently unjustified reasons. In this year alone, white people have called or threatened to call the police on a black man who was babysitting white children, a black family who was barbecuing at a park, on a 9-year-old black boy who walked past a white woman, on a black father watching his son’s soccer game and on a group of girls selling water, among other incidents.
“We went and got a lot of elementary and middle school students ’cause this was a youth march,” Thrower told the paper. “When we got to the end of [Otranto] Road, some of the children said, ‘We’re thirsty’ and ‘Can we stop to get something to drink?’”
Thrower said the rest of the group remained on the sidewalk, as requested by an employee, before another woman approached the group and threatened to call 911.
“A cashier came outside and said, ’OK, I just want to make sure everyone stays on the sidewalk,” Thrower told Yahoo Lifestyle. “A few minutes later, a red truck pulls up and a woman gets out and starts yelling, ‘Leave now! Leave now! I’m calling 911.’”
The Charleston City Paper obtained audio of the 911 call and published it on Tuesday, which Thrower also uploaded to his Facebook.
As heard in the recording, a woman who identified herself as Brenda told police dispatchers that about 30 people were “absolutely destroying the outside” of the store.
She also claimed they were leaving trash everywhere and were “hitting” gas pumps “down.”
“It’s like a riot out here,” she told the dispatcher as she repeatedly asked for police to arrive.
Video filmed by Thrower shows the group standing outside of the store while a man and a woman with a phone pace near a red truck.
When asked by the dispatcher whether she or anyone else was in danger, the woman replied, “No.” The woman also said “no” when the dispatcher asked if any person in the group had “put hands” on another person.
The group had moved along by the time North Charleston police officers responded to the call, and no report was taken, police spokesperson Spencer Pryor told the City Paper.
After North Charleston saw a spike in homicides in 2017, the city’s police chief, Reggie Burgess, began holding “Stop the Violence” marches around the community. The anti-violence march Thrower participated in on Sunday was held in the same vein.
“We don’t have to know each other,” a promotional flyer for Sunday’s demonstration read. “Peace in the streets. Respect your elders. Spread your wings and soar.”
“I felt sick when I heard the 911 call,” Thrower told Yahoo. “A few kids said, ‘Every time we try to do something good, they call the police.’ I kept reassuring them that this was part of conflict resolution and why we walked that day.”
Murphy USA, a national gas station chain, told Yahoo in a statement that 30 to 40 people were gathered outside of the Murphy Express location in North Charleston. The company said members of the group refused to leave after being asked to do so by an employee, which prompted a call to law enforcement.
“Safety issues arose due to people, many of which were young children, being in and around the flow of store traffic, and disruptions to the business were caused by an external emergency fuel stop button being struck numerous times, which shut down all fuel pumps at our site,” the statement read.
Reacting to the 911 audio recording, Thrower disputed the woman’s claims in a Facebook Live video on Tuesday.
“We had kids out there. This lady said we were rioting,” Thrower said. “If you listen to the 911 call and you watch the video, you’ll see us standing up there nice and calm and she ran up on me.”
“White people, y’all got to check other white people behind this shit too,” he added.
Thrower is now organizing a boycott of the Murphy Express gas station and calling for the woman to be fired.