Monique Joseph of Caldwell, New Jersey is speaking out after a white neighbor called the police on her 9-year-old Black child for catching lanternflies. In an article from today (Nov. 10), The Daily Beast reported that the incident happened on Oct. 22. The mother claims her daughter was racially profiled.
As Bobbi Wilson played outside her New Jersey home, she sprayed a homemade solution on invasive insects. Spotted lanternflies are known to feed on and destroy local trees and plants. Bobbi’s elementary school taught students that a mixture of apple cider vinegar, water and dish soap could safely remove the pests. Earlier that month, a local newspaper highlighted the young pupil for her efforts. However, her Republican neighbor Gordon Lawshe was not impressed.
On Nov. 1, Joseph stood before members of a Caldwell Borough Council meeting “to bring awareness on racism and implicit bias that [she] experienced on the very street that [she lives] on.” After her New Jersey neighbor called the cops on Wilson, the child’s mother obtained audio of the police recording. “There’s a little Black woman walking, spraying stuff on the sidewalks and trees. I don’t know what the hell she’s doing. It scares me though,” Lawshe reportedly said on the call.
According to The Daily Beast, Lawshe is a former Caldwell, New Jersey councilman and was the chair of the Caldwell Republican Party until at least 2021. “And [he] included that she’s wearing a hoodie,” Joseph said in the council meeting. “It is sickening and scary to hear my neighbor use triggering words that have resulted in the death of too many Black and brown children and adults at the hands of the police: Black, hoodie, ‘I’m scared.’ Those are triggered words,” the concerned mother added.
Joseph continued, “My neighbor’s words put my daughter in harm’s way. His words and actions were unconscionable, and the impact of the aftermath of this incident will not be kept secret. My 9-year-old daughter was afraid to go outside her front door the next day. She was afraid that her neighbor that she knows has a reason, unknown to her, to call the police on her.” Bobbi’s older sister Hayden Wilson also spoke before the room. “She was not only doing something amazing for our environment, she was doing something that made her feel like a hero,” Hayden said of her sister spraying the lanternflies. “Mr. Gordon decided it would be appropriate to call the police on my sister. He also claimed he was scared,” she added.
Caldwell, New Jersey Mayor John Kelley apologized to the family. Yesterday (Nov. 9), he told The Daily Beast, “After reflecting on the story and learning more from the police report, it is clear that a line was crossed. My heart goes out to Monique and her two girls.” Lawshe’s attorney, Greg Mascera, denied that his client harbored ill intent when the phone call was placed.