A California woman put the fear of the police into a little girl selling bottled water on a San Francisco street corner.
A woman captured on cell phone video allegedly calling police regarding an 8-year-old black girl selling water bottles near AT&T Park in San Francisco is speaking out publicly, saying the incident had nothing to do with race and everything to do with asking neighbors to quiet down.
In an interview with NBC’s “Today” show, Alison Ettel said she was frustrated with the commotion coming from the sales on the sidewalk outside her building while she was working. She said she didn’t call authorities to report the girl, who was identified as Jordan, but wanted to inquire about the legality of selling water without a permit where the mother and daughter were positioned along the street.
“I want the little girl to know that it’s not her fault,” Ettel told the “Today” show. “I want the mother to know this was nothing to do with race at all. It had everything to do with the disturbance. I was very stressed out. I definitely made comments that I never would have in any other situation, and it’s not an excuse.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what happened before the video began capturing the exchange. Ettel said the confrontation started after she heard commotion coming from the water bottle sales happening outside.
“It was continuous,” Ettel told “Today.” “It was like, ‘Two dollars, cold water, two dollars,’ just nonstop for two hours. It just got pretty difficult to deal with.”
Ettel, who noted that she could only hear and not see the vendors at that time, said she asked a security guard to talk to Austin and her daughter and ask them to quiet down or move around the corner. Austin and her daughter refused to move, according to Ettel.
Frustrated by the allegedly continuous noise, Ettel eventually went outside and asked Austin and her daughter to keep it down.
“I was stern,” Ettel told “Today.” “I tried to be polite, but I was stern. And I said, ‘Please, I’m trying to work. You’re screaming. You’re yelling. And people have open windows. It’s a hot day. Can you please keep it down? Do you have a right to be here?'”
But Austin refutes Ettel’s account, saying “[Ettel] never asked us to be quiet. She just came out and directly demanded to see a permit to sell water from an 8-year-old.”
Ettel said that it was Austin who told her to call the police and ask about permits.
“[Austin] said, ‘Why don’t you call the police? I have the right to be here,'” Ettel said. “And I said, ‘I actually think you might need a permit.’ And that’s when things escalated.”
Ettel said she called police and asked if the water could be sold without a permit. Police allegedly told her that it’s illegal to do so, according to Ettel. As of Sunday, there was no immediate record of any call made by Ettel, a San Francisco police spokeswoman told NBC News.
According to Ettel, police asked her if she wanted any law enforcement officials to come out to the scene, but she declined. She said she only called police to figure out if a permit was needed to sell the water at that location.
“There was no point in having the police come,” Ettel said. “That wasn’t it. I just wanted them to be quiet or move to a corner. They were being disruptive. That was it. It was nothing about selling the water. It was just the disruption.”
Austin posted the video as a post on her Instagram with the caption: “an 8-year-old selling water in front of her apartment building where she’s lived her whole life is NOT a reason to call the Police.” She also called the woman “#PermitPatty.”
The viral exchange occurred near an apartment building on Townsend and 2nd streets. Jordan was on the sidewalk outside the building selling water to gather funds in order to help her mother pay for a trip to Disneyland.
“I’m upset she had to go through this,” Austin said after the incident. “I didn’t think in San Francisco my biracial child would have to go through something like this.”
Ettel said she never confronted Jordan directly. Austin said that’s not true, claiming Ettel asked her daughter directly if she had a permit to sell bottled water.
Ausin said she was convinced the question was racially motivated, which is why she started recording Ettel’s alleged call to police.
“We’ve been out before with my nieces who are full white and she didn’t come out here and they were being way louder than Jordan was by herself,” Austin said.
The #PermitPatty video sparked outage and continued conversations about policing and racism.
Ettel said she has received hate mail and death threats since the video was posted, noting that her address and phone number have been made public.
Looking back, Ettel admitted that she wishes she would have never brought up the permit issue during the confrontation.
“I’m not proud of how I acted,” Ettel told “Today.” “I would have taken a walk. I would have done something, not that. It was all in the heat of the moment, and it was wrong.”