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#BeingAPoliticianWhileBlack: Woman Calls 911 on State Rep. for Canvassing in Neighborhood

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State Rep. Janelle Bynum said police were called on her while she was going door-to-door to canvas in a Portland, Ore.-area neighborhood — her own district.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Bynum shared that a resident called 911 on her as she knocked on doors and talked to residents. The lawmaker, a Democrat who’s running for re-election this fall, said the caller thought she was suspicious because she spent too much time typing on her cellphone after each house visit.

“Live from the mean streets of Clackamas!” Bynum wrote. “Big shout out to Officer Campbell who responded professionally to someone who said that I was going door to door and spending a lot of time typing on my cell phone after each house — aka canvassing and keeping account of what my community cares about!”

Bynum included the hashtag: #letsbebetterneighbors.

A Clackamas County deputy pulled up to her around 5:10 p.m. on Tuesday while she was taking notes on her cellphone from a conversation, “with someone at the second to last of about 30 homes on her list,” according to The Oregonian/OregonLive.

“I don’t believe this,” Bynum, 43, said she thought when the officer approached her.

When he asked if she was selling anything, she told him that she’s a state legislator out canvassing. This was the first time someone reported her to police. In 2016, Bynum won the election to the state House of Representatives.

She said the deputy told her a woman called 911, but the caller’s race was unknown. Bynum wanted to meet with the woman, but the deputy said she wasn’t at her residence.

“It was just bizarre,” she told the newspaper. “It boils down to people not knowing their neighbors and people having a sense of fear in their neighborhoods, which is kind of my job to help eradicate.

“But at the end of the day, it’s important for people to feel like they can talk to each other to help minimize misunderstandings.”

Bynum’s Facebook post comes at a time when there’s been multiple reports of authorities being called on Black people only trying to do their jobs. For example, in Southern California, a resident called 911 because a Black firefighter was working in the neighborhood. And in Tennessee, a white woman called authorities on a Black real estate investor for taking photos of a rundown house for which he had a contract to repair.

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