The woman who threatened to call police on an African-American girl selling water on a San Francisco sidewalk – and who was mocked online as “Permit Patty” – has resigned as CEO of TreatWell Health.
A spokeswoman for the company, which sells cannabis-infused medical products, said “this decision, while not an easy one, is in the best interest of [the company’s] patients.”
Alison Ettel was caught on camera confronting an 8-year-old girl selling water to passersby near AT&T Park. The video quickly went viral and sparked a wider conversation about black people being censured for seemingly harmless acts. Ettel says she’s sorry and that the incident had nothing to do with race.
‘I did call police, but not on anybody’
Ettel told CNN she was trying to make a deadline on the day the incident occurred, and became annoyed by what she described as constant yelling about $2 water bottles for sale outside her window.
“I was working from home. I was on some extreme deadlines,” Ettel told CNN’s Dan Simon. “At the time, there was somebody shouting outside continuously. It was going on for a couple hours. I couldn’t concentrate at all.”
Ettel said the shouting was louder than the noise levels she regularly hears in the busy area.
“I am used to hearing a lot of noise, but not … shouting and yelling in a continuous manner. It was this completely repetitive, every second,” she said.
Ettel insists she only called 911 after the woman and her daughter refused to leave, and says she only called to ask whether selling water without a permit was legal.
“I did call the police, but not on anybody,” said Ettel. “I said I’d like to talk with someone about if something is legal or not. I said I am not doing a report, and I am not asking for any dispatch. I just want information. I asked, is this legal? She said ‘no.’”
A seller’s permit is required in San Francisco if someone plans to sell something for a temporary period or something that would be subject to sales tax at a store, according to the city’s business portal.
‘I think she’s a bully’
But Erin Austin, the mother of 8-year-old Jordan Rodgers, who was selling water bottles on the day in question, says that’s not what happened.
“She came out and walked directly up to my daughter and asked to see the permit,” Austin told CNN. “She’s not a loud kid. She’s not screaming. The men on the street selling parking passes are louder than her.”
Austin says she doesn’t believe Ettel had a problem with noise.
“I think she’s a bully,” said Austin. “Just the fact that she called the police on a child, that’s evil, but to call on a child of color, knowing that people have been killing black kids. That says to me you don’t care about my child’s life.”
A meme is born
The clip that went viral is only 15 seconds long. It started with Ettel standing on the sidewalk with her phone to her ear.
“This woman don’t wanna let a little girl sell some water,” says the woman filming the video, which has more than 7 million views on Twitter alone. “She’s calling police on an 8-year-old little girl. You can hide all you want. The whole world’s gonna see you, Boo.”
As she is talking on her cellphone, Ettel ducks behind a wall. The woman filming approaches her.
“Yeah, um, illegally selling water without a permit?” Ettel says into her phone.
The woman filming interjects, “On my property.”
“It’s not your property,” Ettel replies.
“So my little cousin was selling water and didn’t have a permit so this lady decided to call the cops on an 8-year-old,” the caption on the Twitter video says, ending with the hashtag #PermitPatty. The hashtag – and related memes – have spread widely online.
Ettel says she, her former company, and even her customers have been harassed in the aftermath of the incident.
“It has tarnished my name, but also the company’s name,” said Ettel. “They are actually going out there and bullying people, and telling people to pull our things off the shelf and to boycott, even if they are not even customers at that location. They are getting harassed.”
Ettel did, however, offer an apology to Austin and her daughter.
“To the child, I am so sorry that you’re even dealing with this,” she said. “I would never want to crush anyone’s entrepreneurial spirit. … I’d like to say I’m sorry to the mother in how I actually interacted with her, because I know I escalated it, too.”
Austin says she and her daughter want to move past the incident, but she doesn’t believe Ettel’s apology is sincere.
“If it was heartfelt, then we would have gotten it over the weekend when we were still outside selling water,” said Austin. “If she was really sorry, she would have said she was sorry before all the negative stuff started happening to her.”
‘BBQing While Black’
The #PermitPatty confrontation is the latest in a series of widely publicized Bay Area episodes in which white people have called police about black people doing mundane things.
In one incident, a white woman in Oakland became known as “BBQ Becky” on social media after she called police on black people who were barbecuing in an area of a park where that was banned, CNN affiliate KRON reported.
In another viral incident, a white man was dubbed “Jogger Joe” after he was caught on video in Oakland throwing away a black homeless man’s belongings.
CNN’s Samira Said and Dan Simon contributed to this report.