In response to a viral video showing a dispute between two neighbors in which police were called, a group of about 30 Montclairians, mostly high school students, took to the streets Tuesday, June 30, to protest what one of the neighbors called an act of racial bias by a white neighbor against a Black family.

Police respond to the protest.
Police respond to the protest.

The video, which was posted to Facebook on Monday and has been viewed nearly 350,000 times as of late Tuesday night, showed the aftermath of a dispute between a Black husband and wife and a neighbor, a white woman, who knocked on their door to inquire whether the couple had proper permits to install a patio in their backyard.

The video captures the white woman’s claim that the man had pushed her to physically remove her from his property, and of her dialing 911 to call police to the property. The husband, in the post and attached video, denies ever touching her. The woman did not file a formal complaint, according to police.

In a statement by Montclair Deputy Police Chief Wilhelm Young about the incident, he confirms only that police responded to a dispute between neighbors over work being done on the property, and that no complaints were signed by either party. Young said the incident is under investigation.

The video goes on to show about a half-dozen other neighbors, who are white and had gathered after hearing the dispute, attempt to calm the woman, later referred to as “Permit Karen,” and ask her to go home. 

“In this climate right now you are, especially, not supporting members of our community here?” one neighbor asks her.

The video description, posted on Facebook by the husband, accused the woman of an “attempt to invoke the racist power of the state through police” and praised the other neighbors’ actions as “anti-racist ideology at work.”

The husband did not respond to a request from Montclair Local for comment.

After the post went viral, a group of about 30 Montclairians, mostly high school students, gathered at Sunset Park around 4 p.m. Tuesday, before marching down to Valley Road, passing by the woman’s house chanting “Black Lives Matter.” 

Twenty-two-year-old Sophia LaVergne saw the post about the impromptu protest on Instagram and joined in.

“It highlights that even in Montclair, such a diverse town, that there are still incidents of racism here,” LaVergne said. 

She said that police responded to the march, but after most of the protesters had dispersed. 

“It’s interesting how much young people are doing to have their voices heard in Montclair now,” LaVergne added.

The response to the video echoes the public outrage that followed a May viral video in which a white woman called 911 and claimed she was being threatened by an “African American man”  who asked that she put her dog on a leash in Central Park.

A bill in the New Jersey State Assembly in the aftermath of that video, sponsored by Assemblyman Benjie E. Wimberly, would make it a crime to falsely incriminate, file a false police report, or call the 911 emergency telephone system with the purpose of intimidating an individual or group of individuals because of race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or ethnicity.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a similar bill in June.