A Penn State graduate student reported to State College police that she and a friend were harassed outside the Brewery early Saturday morning in an incident she thinks was racially motivated.
Police are investigating the incident, Chief Tom King said.
Stori Ayers said she was sitting in her car on McAllister Street early Saturday with a friend, outside his apartment, talking, when a group of five white people came out of the Brewery.
One of the men approached her vehicle, asking questions about why they were there. Her friend told the man he lives there, but that didn’t satisfy him, she said.
The man then began using expletives and saying the pair “looked shady” sitting outside the bar. Both Ayers and her friend are black.
“If we were a white couple would we look so shady? So suspicious?” she said in a phone interview Sunday.
After the group returned to the bar, Ayers said a State College police car drove down the street and parked behind her car. Shortly after, the group again came out of the bar.
The man again approached the car yelling at Ayers and her friend. This time he pulled his pants down, exposing his buttocks while yelling at them.
The police officer flashed his flood lights and drove up to the group, but after a brief conversation, he left the scene. Ayers said she could not hear the conversation but saw one of the girls smiling and laughing.
None of the group members were arrested, and the man again exposed himself after the officer left, she said.
“I was immediately uncomfortable and didn’t feel safe,” Ayers said.
She decided it was best to leave the scene, so her friend went inside and she drove away. As she drove down Beaver Avenue, one of the girls threw a can at her trunk.
Ayers reported the incident to State College police the next day.
Police are aware of the incident and are investigating it, Chief Tom King said in an email to the Centre Daily Times.
In the email, King said the alleged verbal harassment occurred between midnight and 12:30 a.m. Saturday. He said the man was reported as saying Ayers and her friend were “suspicious and f***ing shady,” and the man “mooned“ them.
King confirmed that an officer did witness a portion of the incident and that it is still under investigation. He asks anyone with information to report it to police at 234-7150 or submit an anonymous tip at statecollegepa.us/index.aspx?nid=27.
Ayers said police told her that the incident won’t necessarily be investigated as racially motivated because none of the group members said anything overtly racist. But she feels the incident was probably racially motivated and the police should be sensitive to the issue.
She said she felt like she had to sacrifice her freedoms that night.
“I had to run,” she said. “I had to go hide and surrender that right I had to be safe.”