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Rhode Island Man Arrested For Assaulting And Hurling Racial Slurs At Neighbor Over Property Dispute

Iman Ali Pahlavi / Facebook

On August 3, what should have been a simple misunderstanding about a misplaced property marker quickly escalated to a racially-charged issue.

In videos recorded by married couple Bahram Pahlavi and Iman Ali Pahlavi, their neighbor, 71-year-old Barrington resident, Richard Gordon, is caught using racial slurs and attempting to physically assault Bahram Pahlavi.

Based on the two videos, Gordon’s wife had removed a property surveyor marker that had recently been placed on the Pahlavi property. When Bahram Pahlavi attempted to replace the one that had gone missing, Gordon approached him and began a verbal altercation with him.

Iman Ali Pahlavi later shared both of these videos on her Facebook profile, stating this was the latest racial occurrence she and her husband had experienced in the three years they had been neighbors with the Gordons.

The videos unfortunately mostly only show feet and waists, as well as the shadows of the two neighboring couples. However, from the beginning, the audio is very clear, in which Gordon’s choice of racial slurs, someone being slapped, and Gordon’s wife coming to his rescue can be clearly heard.

In her Facebook post, Iman Ali Pahlavi wrote: 

“Since I’ve moved three years ago, we have been subjected to quite a few microagressions: neighbors walk through any and all parts of our yard, park in our driveway and get irate when we politely ask them to stop. I had been told it was racism, but I didn’t want to believe it.”

“This is what happened when my husband went to replace a missing property marker the surveyor had placed a week ago.”

“One of my neighbors jumped my husband calling him the N word. Later, he filed a false police report accusing my husband of attacking him.”

“In the video you can hear my husband saying ‘get off, get off’ and that’s ‘assault.’ And I hear my husband asking my neighbor’s wife to call the ‘police.’ He stopped recording to dial 911 himself.”

“My neighbor’s wife begged my husband not to pursue it, so he told the operator he was fine. Then her husband made a false allegation against my husband that she did not refute to the police.”

“I shudder to think what would have happened if we did not have the video.”

“Privilege is real.”

You can watch both of the videos recorded by the Pahlavis here, with a warning against vulgar language and racial slurs. 

Since I’ve moved three years ago, we have been subjected to quite a few microagressions: neighbors walk through any and…

Posted by Iman Ali Pahlavi on Thursday, August 6, 2020

Members of the community and viewers across Facebook have had a lot on their minds after watching the two videos. 

Iman Ali Pahlavi / Facebook
Iman Ali Pahlavi / Facebook
Iman Ali Pahlavi / Facebook
Iman Ali Pahlavi / Facebook
Iman Ali Pahlavi / Facebook
Iman Ali Pahlavi / Facebook

The community responded in support of the Pahlavis by showing up last Friday night on Gordon’s front lawn to host a Black Lives Matter protest. Some brought with them picket signs, and others chanted, all in favor of the couple.

The Providence Journal reported:

“Posts on social media and local news coverage initially drew attention to Friday’s arrest of Richard Gordon, and by midday Sunday, many people wanted to do something to show support for the man’s neighbors.”

“About 100 people gathered on the lawn, some of them carrying picket signs, all of them listening when Katherine Quinn represented herself as a friend of the family and called for Rhode Islanders to do more to confront racism in the state.”

“The case itself presented a change in scenery from other high-profile dramas that have galvanized protests aligned with the Black Lives Matter cause.”

During the protest, friend Katherine Quinn confided: 

“[Richard Gordon is] an angry racist privileged white man who cannot stand the fact that this family lives across the street from him.”

The senior director of Black Lives Matter – Rhode Island, Mark Fisher, saw this as even more reason to continue defending and documenting unprivileged voices.

Fisher stated:

“We are going to make our voices heard. In no uncertain terms, we will respond to the proposed question: Is it OK to act on your bigotry with impunity?”

Richard Gordon was arrested and charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct.

As of this morning, after further deliberation with the Attorney General, Peter F. Neronha, Gordon’s simple charges have been upgraded to a hate crime.

After the upgrade, Neronha stated: 

“[Gordon] intentionally selected [Pahlavi and his property because of Gordon’s] hatred or animus toward the actual or [Pahlavi’s] perceived religion, color, race, national origin, or ancestry.”

The investigation remains ongoing, but the community agrees this is a sign of progress.

McKenzie Lynn Tozan

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.