Twitter users are demanding justice for a Black family in Virginia Beach that shared a disturbing video of the racist harassment they’ve endured from one of their white neighbors. The Martinez family’s story, which was reported by NBC News last Thursday (Sept. 30), gained renewed attention on Wednesday (Oct. 6) after it went viral on the social media platform. Many Twitter users are now calling on local and state politicians to protect this family after the Virginia Beach Police Department said they have “no authority to intervene.”
Last week, Jannique Martinez told the Norfolk NBC affiliate WAVY that the neighbor has been harassing her family for over a year. Martinez claims the neighbor installed motion-detecting light sensors that shine bright lights at her family’s home whenever someone steps outside. The neighbor has also been playing an audio track with monkey noises and the N-word loudly toward the Martinez’s home.
The harassment began, Martinez said, after she reported the neighbor to the police for playing his music too loudly.
On Sept. 29, Virginia Beach police released a statement about the harassment on Twitter.
“The VBPD has responded to several calls for service over the past several months related to nuisance/loud music complains on Jessamine Court,” the statement read. “As appalling and offensive as the neighbor’s behaviors are, the city attorney and Virginia magistrate have separately determined that the actions reported thus far did not rise to a level that Virginia law defines as criminal behavior. This means the VBPD has had no authority to intervene and warrants were not supported.”
The department further said it would continue to “closely monitor” the “unpleasant situation.”
After trying to get help from police and both criminal and civil courts, Martinez said she doesn’t know where else to turn.
On Wednesday, some Twitter users identified the white neighbor as 47-year-old John Michael Eskildsen. However, his identity has not been officially confirmed.
Online, Twitter users came to the Martinez family’s defense and hoped to bring enough attention to the issue to spur legal action.
“How is this not actionable?” one person tweeted. “If the Black family was playing music as loud as that shit sounds, especially on a regular basis, the Virginia Beach police would be making up ways to enforce a noise ordinance or some criminal nuisance law.”
“Amazing how police will come arrest Black people for standing in their own front lawns because someone pearl clutched & called 911—but a white supremacist spends years racially abusing a Black family with kids in their own home & Virginia Beach police claim their hands are tied,” another person wrote.
According to The Pilot, the Virginia Fair Housing Office reached out to the Martinez family and is currently investigating the situation. On Sept. 24, the outlet also writes that a group of local residents gathered in front of the family’s house with signs showing their support.
See tweets about the situation and video of the harassment on Twitter below.