Groveland Officials Back Black Neighbor Who Was Accused of Being Out of Place in Town

Video capture of man Julia Santos says followed her.

Groveland officials are backing their neighbor after the Black woman was followed and accused of being out of place in her own neighborhood.

Town Finance Director Denise Dembkoski, on behalf of the town of Groveland, and Selectmen Chair Michael Wood were among those offering support for Julia Santos. Coming at a time of critical national attention on racial stereotypes, Santos spoke out after being followed home Monday by another resident. She confronted the man and took video. The recording captures the man saying, “I don’t feel safe with you driving around my neighborhood.”

Santos responded, “I’m Black. Is that why you’re following me?” She said the man harassed her while she was out picking up a bag of dog food offered by another neighbor.

Dembkoski said, “This situation has given us all a collective pause…Groveland seeks to be a safe and welcoming community for all. Anyone should be able to drive or walk on any street without being made to feel like a criminal. I join in the outrage and collective anger felt by our residents but am moved by the support offered to the victim in this case.” Dembkoski added, “It is unacceptable that a young Black woman should have the presumption of wrongdoing for driving in her own hometown—or anyone else’s hometown, neighborhood or street for that matter. No one should be made to feel unsafe or unwelcome when they have done nothing wrong…”

In his statement, Wood said, “A vital conversation has been brought to the forefront in the Town of Groveland, and it is imperative that the conversation continues. By working together, the true story of what Groveland represents will not be the actions of one person but of the many, who came together to support the victim in this case.”

In comments on social media, Santos said, “I am overwhelmed and pleasantly surprised with the amount of support I’ve been receiving in the past day. I would like to thank everyone who’s been on my side and supporting me. The amount of kindness I’ve received is incredible.”

Groveland Police Chief Jeffrey Gillen has opened a criminal investigation into the incident and says charges could follow against the man. Gillen said, “I am deeply disturbed by this situation. The fact that a resident of our town could face accusation and be followed around like a criminal should make everyone stop in their tracks and consider how we treat one another.”

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