A Brooklyn community has rallied around a nine-year-old black boy left traumatized after a white woman accused him of touching her butt in a bodega.
Neighborhood officials and local residents gathered in front of the Sahara Deli Market in Flatbush on Monday evening to show their support for Jeremiah Harvey, who was aggressively confronted by Teresa Klein last week.
The 53-year-old dubbed ‘Cornerstore Caroline’ by a witness who filmed her tirade has since apologized to Jeremiah after security footage revealed that the nine-year-old did not lay a hand on her.
However, during the rally Monday Jeremiah’s mother Someko Bellille and other community members called for an investigation into Klein’s actions.
Bellille described her sadness and anger at having to explain sexual assault to her young son, who did not stop crying throughout the rally.
‘I am a hardworking, God fearing woman. Last week was just a normal day for me,’ Bellille said.
‘I decided to stop at this deli store, where this lady proceeded to intimidate, harass, and antagonize me and my children.
‘That day, this fear was placed into my children’s heart.’
In the original viral video of the incident, Jeremiah and his younger sister can be seen crying and cowering behind their mother as Klein launches into her tirade and tells police: ‘I was just sexually assaulted by a child’.
Addressing her son on Monday, Bellille said: ‘It’s OK to be afraid. But this was not your fault, Jeremiah. I’m your mother and I’m going to do what I can to make sure every other child doesn’t have to experience this.’
Borough President Eric Adams also addressed the crowd outside the bodega, referring to Jeremiah as ‘our soldier’.
‘When I used to cry as a little boy, everybody need to watch out because that’s when I’m going to be my strongest,’ Adams told the boy.
‘Look at all these people behind you. They’re here for you. We’re here for you. You’re not alone.’
A hashtag #JusticeForJeremiah spread on social media and $11,000 was raised through crowdfunding for the boy’s education.
When approached by reporters, Klein told the New York Post she apologized to the two children, but not their mother.
She said: ‘I was wrong. Young man, I don’t know your name, but I’m sorry.
‘I would like to apologize to her daughter and her son but not to her. She could have walked away, but she didn’t. I’m also a Buddhist, [but] I let my temper show,’ Klein said.
‘I’ve been called racist before, and I’m not.’
However, many of the attendees at Monday’s rally said they had no doubt Klein’s actions were racially motivated.
One woman, who identified herself as a teacher and anti-racism activist, placed the blame on gentrification, saying: ‘We put a bunch of people in a melting pot without a proper understanding or ways to relate to each other, we get anti-black rhetoric or behavior projected onto us and our children.’
Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte also spoke, drawing a parallel between Jeremiah and Emmett Till, the 14-year-old black boy lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after a white woman accused him of whistling at her.
Bichotte said: ‘I cannot imagine how traumatized this young boy is. Innocent, coming home from school, and having to live this, having to live 1955.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Megan Sheets