Berg: Confrontation with campaign worker was racial, not political

A campaign field director, who is Black, videotaped as a white man told him to leave neighborhood: “I don’t want you here.”

April Berg

April Berg

MILL CREEK — A Black campaign worker for state Rep. April Berg was verbally accosted while trying to canvass a Snohomish County neighborhood Saturday, a confrontation the lawmaker said was motivated by race.

Julian Jackson, field director for Berg’s re-election campaign, got out of his car and was walking toward a house when a man bicycled up to him and demanded he leave the neighborhood near Mill Creek.

The verbal confrontation lasted roughly five minutes, most of which Jackson videotaped on his phone.

There’s no doubt in Berg’s mind the motive was racial, not political. Jackson, 21, is Black. The man was white.

“He just saw a young Black man drive up in a nice car and he wanted him out,” she said. “He wanted him out of his neighborhood.”

On Monday, Berg tweeted a portion of the video. She also urged candidates to create safety plans for such encounters for their canvassers.

“Our team has always talked about safety because I’m a Black candidate, because we had issues in 2020, and then even this year we had a hate symbol put on one of our signs,” Berg said. “This incident, for me, just highlighted those what ifs in your head when you are canvassing and door-belling while Black. This is the kind of stuff that happens, that can happen.”

Berg did not file a report with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said. “… This is really a traumatic event that’s happened to him. … It’s a lot of work and sometimes it can be a little bit retraumatizing.”

Earlier in the campaign, she did file a report with Mill Creek police when someone sprayed swastikas on campaign signs.

Jackson, a 2019 graduate of North Creek High School, is a junior at Hampton College in Virginia. The political science major said he had knocked on roughly 3,000 doors in the campaign without incident before the confrontation.

From the outset, he said, he felt “definitely, this was racially motivated.”

Jackson recalled he drove into the neighborhood a little before noon. As he looked for a “good legal place” to park, he noticed the man in front a house with his family.

When Jackson got out, he said he saw a man usher them inside, get on a bike and ride toward him. The man told him him to leave the neighborhood.

Jackson, who was wearing a Berg campaign T-shirt and had campaign literature, responded he would keep doing what he came to do.

The man hopped off the bike and advanced toward Jackson.

“He was making like he wanted to fight me,” Jackson said in an interview.

That’s when he started videotaping with his phone, he said. The man stopped advancing.

“I’m doing this for my safety,” Jackson says on the video. “You frightened me.”

The man tells Jackson “get out of my (expletive) neighborhood.”

“I don’t want you here,” he continues.

In the verbal confrontation, the man insists repeatedly that Jackson needs a permit to canvass in the neighborhood.

“I know the rules,” he says.

“I don’t think you do,” Jackson replies.

The man later says, “You’re trespassing, you need to get out of here.”

Jackson declines in a voice far calmer than when the confrontation began.

“I have a job to do, buddy. I am going to keep doing it,” he said. “I’ll make sure to not go to your house.”

Jackson actually didn’t go to any homes. He called Berg and recounted what occurred. She directed him to leave the area, he said.

“There is definitely this undertone when watching that video … of like, ‘Why are you here? Why are you in this community? Why are you on my block?’” Berg said. ”A lot of the video was about the quiet part being said out loud.”

No permit is needed to go door-to-door canvassing for a candidate or political cause, Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell said.

“The law is clear,” Cornell said. “Any attempt to suppress a person who is attempting to express their First Amendment rights is abhorrent of what we stand for in our society.”

Berg, a Democrat from Mill Creek, is running against Republican Ryne Rohla in the 44th Legislative District.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dospueblos.

Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; isabella.breda@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

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