ALLENDALE TWP, Mich. — A couple says racial harassment pushed them out of their house, and even encouraged them to leave the township they called home.
Jessica Griffin and Anthony Miller are local activists and married. Anthony happens to be a black man, and Jessica a white woman. They have both been involved heavily with the local Justice for Black Lives organization, which in recent months has made a push for Allendale Township to remove an increasingly controversial civil war statue standing at the Allendale Community Park.
The couple says that back in the summer of 2020, their neighbor at their mobile home park harassed them so bad that they were forced to move. Griffin says the man's threats escalated from online, to physical.
“He would just flip out and start screaming and yelling... and calling us a bunch of liberals and it just kind of went sideways,” Jessica Miller says.
“And it typically happened when Tony was home more often than not, and then it just escalated from there.”
Jessica and Anthony Miller have gathered a collection of video evidence and screenshots from social media-- saying their neighbor has called them derogatory names and even shared their home address on social media sites.
They have collected a list of police reports regarding their neighbor's alleged actions. According to online court records, their neighbor has not yet been charged in relation to the incidents.
Jessica says they contact the police and their landlord whenever something concerning happens, but the issues continued.
“I mean, you have a white man harassing a black man and people that are part of the LGBTQI community and nothing's being done, and when nothing is being done, that's giving him a platform and more motivation to do something.”
The Miller family is just one example of racist harassment here in West Michigan. According to Carolyn Normandin, regional director of Michigan's chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, the state has seen a sharp increase in racially motivated attacks in recent years.
“I am very concerned about the increased incidence of all types of hate in Michigan,” said Normandin.
“We've seen an increase of white supremacy and white nationalism over the last several years, but it seemed to be fueled by not only BLM movements last summer, but also concerns and fear over COVID-19.”
Normandin recommends that those who feel unsafe due to suspected hate-based harassment or violence should most importantly contact the police and have the incident documented. She also recommends that they do whatever they can to protect themselves from further harm.
As for Jessica and Anthony Miller, they’ve moved out of the community to a temporary home while their children attend school nearby.
“There's like a weight lifted off of us” Anthony Miller says. “I can actually go outside and not have to look over my shoulder or feel any kind of tension.”