Members of a local community came together recently to show their support for a Black family subjected to ongoing racist treatment from one of their neighbors.
NPR’s Bill Chappell reported that “Jannique Martinez’s home sits in a tidy cul-de-sac in Virginia Beach, where she lives with her husband and kids and hosts the occasional bake sale. There’s just one problem, and it’s a loud one: a man who lives next door blares monkey sounds, banjo music and racist slurs at Martinez and her family — a situation that went on for months.”
Martinez has frequently complained to local police about the racist neighbor, but they have repeatedly told her they could not stop the offensive noise. That’s when the rest of the local community came together to hold a rally in support of Martinez on her block — and directly in front of the home of the racist neighbor harassing her. So far, their efforts appear to be paying off.
Friday morning was the quietest Jannique Martinez’s Virginia Beach neighborhood had been in years.
She could hardly hear the “racist stuff” that had been blaring next door in the 2000 block of Jessamine Court.https://t.co/ymKTcLk5hE
— The Virginian-Pilot (@virginianpilot) October 1, 2021
In a Facebook post, Nancy Eleftheratos, another of Martinez’s neighbors, said, “We currently have some peace, and our neighbors do not have to endure the racial slurs directed at them!”
In an interview with the local newspaper, The Virginian-Pilot, Martinez said that the horrific and racist noise coming from the house next door started several years ago, not long after her family first moved in. Whenever Martinez complained to the police, as she did over the summer, the noise got noticeably louder.
“My hateful neighbor plays this along with the monkey noises towards me and my family, EVERY SINGLE DAY!!” Martinez posted on her personal Facebook page in September. She also included a video of what she is forced to endure daily from her home, which has since gone viral. Since then, hundreds of people have expressed their sympathy to Martinez, and countless others have offered legal assistance or pointed out local laws or codes that might help eliminate the problem.
“There are no laws in the commonwealth that protect us from it,” she said in the post, “This affects my kids, mentally and emotionally.”
According to Chappell, her 7-year-old son has been terrified to leave the house and even started asking about the n-word.
A Black family says their neighbor plays loud recordings of racial slurs and monkey noises.@donlemon speaks with one family member about what she has experienced and how police responded.
Warning: there is graphic language in this segment. pic.twitter.com/3D5qZQhvtr
— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) September 30, 2021
Martinez isn’t the only target of harassment by her neighbor. The man reportedly has surveillance cameras pointed at several homes and has electronics wired. Whenever certain doors open or lights turn on — whether Martinez’s or someone else’s — predetermined music will come on. However, it’s only the music the neighbor has selected for Martinez that is blatantly racist.
“The minute I open my front door, his lights blink, or ‘my music’ or ‘my song’ comes on,” she said. “[And as] soon as [one of my other neighbors] get to the middle of their driveway, it blinks — they’ve got a specific song [too].”
Despite Martinez’s story drawing national attention, Virginia Beach police continue to insist there’s nothing that can be done, saying in a statement that it wishes there were appropriate laws in place that could help the family resolve this “most unpleasant situation.”
Even with months of complaints on file, the police say they have limited options because under state law, “the neighbor’s harassing behavior doesn’t amount to a crime.”
— Virginia Beach Police Department (@VBPD) September 30, 2021
In a Tweet, the Virginia Beach Police Department said, “the city attorney and Virginia magistrates have separately determined that the actions reported thus far did not rise to a level that Virginia law defines as criminal behavior. This means the VBPD has had no authority to intervene, and warrants were not supported.”
The city government is said to be examining what options it might have available to help in the case.
“Hate has no place in Virginia Beach, and this will not stand,” said Virginia Beach City Council Member Michael Berlucchi. A department spokesperson said local police have also promised to continue monitoring the situation closely and investigate any further complaints.
But even with that support, the rally of community members appears to have made the greatest difference in the case so far.
In celebrating the neighborhood coming together for the Martinez family, Eleftheratos said everyone just wants peace and quiet and wants to let their kids run around and play. And although the music hasn’t gone away entirely, it has gotten quieter.
“It ain’t over yet!” she said. “But it’s a start!”