NJ police honor Black girl who had cops called on her for killing lanternflies
MONTCLAIR — A 9-year-old Black girl was celebrated by local and state officials after her mother said she had been racially profiled by a white neighbor while trying to get rid of spotted lanternflies last year.
State Attorney General Matt Platkin joined the Montclair Police Department on Friday for the ceremony recognizing young Bobbi Wilson.
“Her perseverance reminds us all that we can overcome hate together. She is a leading light, not just for her community, but our entire State,” Platkin said in a tweet.
"I wanted it to be a teachable moment for my community," ABC 7 Eyewitness News quoted her mother, Monique Joseph, as saying during Friday's ceremony. "I'm grateful I have Bobbi every night."
In November, Joseph spoke at a Caldwell Borough Council meeting, sharing the description that Gordon Lawshe had called into borough police on Oct. 22 about a "little Black woman walking, spraying stuff on the sidewalks and trees."
Lawshe added he was “scared” by the actions, which responding officers found was actually the girl’s efforts to help the neighborhood.
Bobbi was using a recipe shared on TikTok, mixing apple cider vinegar and soap to spray for the invasive insect that has been a bane on the state for the past several years.
"Racism, whether intentional or not, is still racism," Joseph said at the November 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," Joseph said.
Gov. Phil Murphy then voiced support for the family.
“No mother should have to worry about the cops being called on their child for trying to make the world a better place,” Murphy said in a tweet.
“Bobbi, your mother was right. You were doing something amazing for our environment. Thank you for being a great community scientist.”