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Black Oregon Lawmaker Says Police Were Called As She Knocked On Constituents' Doors

Oregon state Rep. Janelle Bynum poses with the Clackamas County sheriff's deputy who responded to a call from someone who said Bynum was casing the neighborhood. The legislator said she was going door to door talking to constituents.

In the lead-up to Independence Day, Oregon state Rep. Janelle Bynum — a black woman — was out canvassing her constituents in Clackamas, as she is up for re-election this fall.

But according to Bynum, her door-to-door stops raised alarm bells for someone, who called the police.

OregonLive reported that Bynum was typing notes on her cellphone when a Clackamas County sheriff's deputy pulled up and asked if she was selling something. She introduced herself and the two sorted the situation out.

"It was just bizarre," Bynum told OregonLive. "It boils down to people not knowing their neighbors and people having a sense of fear in their neighborhoods, which is kind of my job to help eradicate. But at the end of the day, it's important for people to feel like they can talk to each other to help minimize misunderstandings."

The state legislator shared her experience in a Facebook post that included a photo of her with the sheriff's deputy who responded to the call.

"I asked to meet my constituent who thought I was suspicious, but she was on the road by then," she wrote. "The officer called her, we talked and she did apologize."

Bynum's is the latest in a series of incidents that have gone viral where people of color have had police called on them for doing such seemingly everyday things as touring the campus of Colorado State University, barbecuing at Lake Merritt or asking for the bathroom key while waiting for a colleague at Starbucks.

According to OregonLive, Bynum told the deputy that "when people do things like this, it can be dangerous for people like me."

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Tanya Ballard Brown is an editor for NPR. She joined the organization in 2008.
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