A Virginia Beach, Va., community has come together to support a Black family that has been the victim of racist noises from a neighbor by holding a rally in the neighborhood. So far, it has worked to quiet the ruckus, according to the Virginian-Pilot.
“We currently have some peace, and our neighbors do not have to endure the racial slurs directed at them!” said Nancy Eleftheratos, another of Martinez’s neighbors on Jessamine Court, in a Facebook posting about the welcome change.
As The Root previously reported, a neighbor, who has not been publicly identified, has been directing racist noise at Jannique Martinez’s family and there has been little city authorities could do about it. The sounds include monkey noises, commentary with the n-word used repeatedly and banjo music that plays every 15 to 30 seconds, according to Martinez.
The loud music began in 2017, a year after Martinez and her family moved into the Salem Lakes neighborhood. When she called the cops in July, Martinez claimed her neighbor began playing screeching monkey sounds from a speaker in the window.
The noise interrupted Martinez’s sleep because she could not keep her windows open. It got so bad at times that she did not want to leave the house because she didn’t want to hear the noise. Her 7-year-old son fears the man next door blaring the noise and would often ask his mother what the N-word meant. When they first moved into their home, he was 2. So he has had to grow up listening to his neighbor’s racist behavior.
Here is more from the Virginian-Pilot:
The mother of three sought help from police, the Virginia Beach Magistrate Office and a civil judge, who all said there was nothing they could do because the neighbor didn’t break any laws or threaten Martinez and her family.
Virginia Beach police issued a statement [Sept. 29] calling the neighbor’s behavior “appalling and offensive.” But despite multiple nuisance and loud music complaints, the department “has had no authority to intervene and warrants were not supported.” The statement also said officials will monitor and help as long as it’s “within the limits of the law.”
In the same statement, police said the magistrate office and city attorney concluded the neighbor’s actions don’t “rise to a level that Virginia law defines as criminal behavior.” The city attorney’s office pointed The Pilot to a city ordinance which states officials cannot intervene if doing so might violate their First Amendment rights, but its lawyers but did not answer when asked whether the law prevents the city from taking action in Martinez’s case.
“At the end of the day, the law is the law,” Martinez said during an interview Wednesday at her home. “What more can (the city) do than they’ve already been doing — unless something changes, and unless the law changes.”
Nancy Eleftheratos, a homeowner on Jessamine Court, said she expected the department’s response after a police officer came to talk with Martinez and herself last week. The officer told both women it was “protected speech,” Eleftheratos said.
The neighbor did not respond to requests for comment from The Virginian-Pilot.
The good news is that the Virginia Fair Housing Office reached out to the Martinez family and is figuring out how to support them. According to the Virginian-Pilot, the office investigates instances of “coercion, intimidation, threats or interference with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of their fair housing rights.”
One Virginia Beach city council member is also figuring out how to support Martinez.
“It may be legal, but it’s not right,” Council Member Michael Berlucchi said during a regular meeting Tuesday night. “We cannot let that stand in Virginia Beach.”