Eli Sabur was out campaigning for David Kim, who’s running for a U.S. congressional seat, in Gwinnett County.
Sabur was doing door-to-door canvassing recently when a resident in a Snellville neighborhood called the police on him. In the 911 call, the resident tells officers a car has been parked outside for 15 to 20 minutes and a man got out and started walking down the street.
“Look at this, look at this,” Sabur says in a video being shared widely on social media. “One, two, where’s the other one? Oh yeah, three police cars. All we’re doing, we’re just trying to get David Kim in office.”
Sabur is a Morehouse student, and Kim campaign officials say he’s been with them for months.
Billy Sparks, the Kim campaign communication’s director, said the call troubled him.
“We’re worried about any individual who is innocently going about their lives and is suddenly viewed as a threat,” Sparks said.
But Jake Smith, a public information officer for Gwinnett police, said the resident was just doing what they encourage if they see something that makes them uneasy — give police a call.
Smith said officers always respond to calls about perceived suspicious behavior such as an unknown person walking around a neighborhood. He said it’s better to be safe than sorry.
“We do encourage people to call in for things like that,” Smith said. “And anything else they’re unsure of.”
He said Sabur’s race had nothing to do with police response to the call.
But community advocates say race does play a part.
Mary-Pat Hector works with the Atlanta branch of the National Action Network, a civil rights organization.
She spent some time campaigning herself when she was a candidate for public office and has this advice for canvassers, especially African-Americans.
“Stay together in twos,” she said. “Have your yard signs up. What we would do is we would hold signs up as we walked so people could clearly see. But again, this does not help all the time because at the end of the day, you’re still a person of color.”
Hector said the police being called on Sabur is just symbolic of a larger narrative taking hold throughout the country.
No police report has been filed because Sabur was canvassing legally.
David Kim has since thanked him for his contributions on Twitter and said this incident “deeply saddens him.”