A white woman who in a widely shared video appeared to call the authorities on an 8-year-old black girl for “illegally selling water without a permit” claimed on Monday that she had acted out of frustration, not racial animus.
The woman, Alison Ettel, said that she was at home in San Francisco when she was disrupted by the girl, Jordan Rodgers, and her mother, Erin Austin, selling bottled water outside of their apartment building.
“I tried to be polite, but I was stern, and I said, ‘Please, I’m trying to work, you’re screaming, you’re yelling, and people have open windows. It’s a hot day. Can you please keep it down?’” Ettel said in an interview that aired on NBC’s “Today.”
Austin, however, disputed that account, telling “Today” that she and Ettel had never discussed the noise.
“She never asked us to be quiet, she just came out and directly demanded to see a permit to sell water from an 8-year-old,” Austin said. She said Jordan was selling the water to raise money for a trip to Disneyland after Austin lost her job.
“That woman thought that she could use her white privilege and it didn’t work,” Austin added.
Neither Ettel nor Austin could be reached for comment.
— Racist Raj ? (@_ethiopiangold) June 23, 2018
In the original video, Austin recorded Ettel with a phone to her ear and said that she was calling the police on Jordan. When Ettel turned and saw she was being recorded, she immediately crouched behind a wall.
“You can hide all you want, the whole world’s going to see you,” Austin said.
Ettel stood back up, looked toward the camera and said, “Yeah, illegally selling water without a permit.”
“On my property,” Austin interjected. “It’s not your property,” Ettel said.
In an earlier interview with HuffPost, Ettel said she had only “pretended” to call the police. The San Francisco Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The video, watched millions of times on social media, struck many as similar to other recent episodes in which white people appeared to needlessly escalate encounters with black people over minor, or nonexistent, transgressions.
In April, a white manager at a Starbucks in Philadelphia called the police on two black men awaiting a meeting. Later that month, a white woman in Oakland, California, called the police on black men for the “illegal” act of using a charcoal grill in a park. In May, a white student at Yale University called the campus police on a black student who fell asleep in a common area in her dorm.
Like the woman in Oakland, who was quickly dubbed “BBQ Becky,” Ettel earned an alliterative nickname on social media: “Permit Patty.”
In the interview with HuffPost, Ettel denied that race had played a role in her actions. She nevertheless expressed regret over how she handled the situation.
“It was stupid,” she said. “I completely regret that I handled that so poorly. It was completely stress-related, and I should have never confronted her.”
Ettel told “Today” that she had received numerous threats, including some on her life, and said that she wanted to apologize to Jordan and her mother. It was not immediately clear if she had reached out to them personally.
Several marijuana-related businesses have since announced that they have severed ties with Treatwell, a medical marijuana company founded by Ettel that sells products for pets.
After the video began circulating over the weekend, Jonathon Brannon, a musician, posted a purchase confirmation for four tickets to Disneyland for Jordan and her family. In a video posted online, Jordan reacted to the news with screams of joy.