Jessica Richardson and her husband Sgt. Franklin Richardson were in Starkville, Mississippi this Memorial Day weekend, looking to spend the day with their dog at a nearby Kampgrounds of America, located about a 40-minute drive from their hometown of Macon. Their greeting on the grounds, though, was anything but neighborly: Within minutes of their arrival, they were held up at gunpoint by an older white woman and instructed to leave. Ms. Richardson wrote about the scare on Facebook, sharing a video post of the interaction. “Today was a beautiful day so my husband (who’s a vet), our 2 year old dog, and myself, decided to Google a lake to visit and have a picnic,” she wrote. The footage quickly went viral.
She later explained to a local news station that shortly after setting foot on the property, which they had understood to be open to the public, a property manager drove up to them in a truck, armed with a handgun. “She jumped out and the gun was pointed at me, my husband, and our dog. It was just pointing at us. One finger was on the trigger and one finger was on the lever of the revolver.” Her husband had just returned to the U.S. after nine months of being in the Middle East with the Army National Guard. “It’s kind of crazy,” said the Sgt. “You [get deployed] and don’t have a gun pointed at you, and you come back home and the first thing that happens is you have a gun pointed at you. It’s kind of crazy to think about.”
The property manager insisted that the Richardsons were not allowed on the premises without having a reservation. “She was just like, ‘get, get, you don’t belong here,” recalled Ms. Richardson, who was stunned by the threat of deadly violence and the dehumanization that they were subjected to simply for walking onto a campground with their dog. “The fact that she used ‘get, get’ like we were a dog. You say get, get to a stray dog that’s on your porch. That ‘get, get’ got to me more than ‘you don’t belong here.’”
Before leaving, the couple stopped by the campground office and spoke to an employee who turned out to be the husband of their overreactive, racist greeter. He contradicted what his wife had told the Richardsons, telling them that campground reservations were not necessary if they wanted to spend time at the lake… not that we needed to be reassured that the incident was knee jerk racism at its worst.
The property manager has not been identified, but has since been fired by Kampgrounds of America.