A Filipino American man was stenciling “Black Lives Matter” in chalk outside his San Francisco home last week when a white couple confronted him and accused him of defacing private property.
A video of the June 9 encounter, which has reached over 19.6 million views on Twitter, shows a couple asking James Juanillo, 50, if he lives in the Pacific Heights house before alleging that they know the homeowner and claiming he was engaging in illegal activity.
A white couple call the police on me, a person of color, for stencilling a #BLM chalk message on my own front retaining wall. “Karen” lies and says she knows that I don’t live in my own house, because she knows the person who lives here. #blacklivesmatter pic.twitter.com/rOpHvKVwgP
— Jaimetoons (@jaimetoons) June 12, 2020
Juanillo’s post was accompanied with the message, “A white couple call the police on me, a person of color, for stencilling a #BLM chalk message on my own front retaining wall. ‘Karen’ lies and says she knows that I don’t live in my own house, because she knows the person who lives here.”
(Karen is the online term typically used to describe white women who confront and call the police on black individuals or people of color who are doing ordinary activities.)
Social media users identified the woman as Lisa Alexander, founder and CEO of LaFace Skincare, while her husband Robert Larkin stood in the background.
“It’s private property,” Alexander is heard saying on video.
“But if I did live here and this was my property this would be absolutely fine,” Juanillo responded. “And you don’t know if I live here or if this is my property.”
“We actually do know,” Alexander retorted. “We know the person who does.”
He dared the couple to “call the cops,” with Alexander saying “Yes, we will do so” as they walk away.
“And that, people, is why black lives matter. That’s ‘Karen’ and she’s calling the cops,” he said at the end of the video.
Juanillo has not responded to several requests for comment from the Asian Journal about the incident.
Juanillo, who has lived in the home since 2002 and owns a dog walking business, told NBC Bay Area that it was important to show solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement in the particular neighborhood, considered one of the priciest in the city.
“In this environment, [Lisa] knows calling the cops on a person of color for a perceived crime could result in death,” he said in the interview. “She called the cops anyway.”
He advised other people of color and protesters not to dare “Karens to call the cops,” but he only did because he has known the officers in his area since he’s been a resident there for 18 years.
A police officer reportedly arrived at the scene within two minutes after the couple walked away but did not investigate or get out of his car because he recognized Juanillo.
Since the video’s circulation, Alexander has received backlash online, prompting LaFace to take its website offline and Birchbox, a makeup subscription company, to cut ties with the company.
Alexander publicly apologized for the incident and said she “should have minded [her] own business.”
“The last 48 hours has taught me that my actions were those of someone who is not aware of the damage caused by being ignorant and naive to racial inequalities,” she continued. “When I watch the video I am shocked and sad that I behaved the way I did. It was disrespectful to Mr. Juanillo and I am deeply sorry for that. I did not realize at the time that my actions were racist and have learned a painful lesson. I am taking a hard look at the meaning behind white privilege and am committed to growing from this experience.”
Her husband was fired from his job at Raymond James, a wealth management firm, which said it “has zero tolerance for racism and discrimination for any kind.”
“As a first-generation Filipino American, you have to fight for it,” Juanillo told CNN’s Don Lemon in an interview. “And as a homosexual, we fight every day for recognition, for visibility, for equality. So the reason BLM resonates with me is because I’ve been fighting for equality all my life.”