Franklin and Jessica thought they were going to spend a relaxing Memorial Day weekend at Oktibbeha County Lake, a popular fishing destination on the outskirts of Starkville, Mississippi.
According to the Washington Post, when they arrived, they were greeted by a white campground manager with a gun and were told to leave.
A spokesman for Kampground of America, a chain that oversees hundreds of commercial campgrounds nationwide, told the Washington Post on Tuesday that the property manager for the Starkville location had been fired.
Ironically enough, Franklin, a sergeant in the Army National Guard, had recently returned from a nine-month deployment in the Middle East, according to WCBI.
“It’s kind of crazy,” he told the station. “You go over there 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.”
The incident apparently seemed to have stemmed from confusion over whether the picnic spots by the lakefront were public or private property.
To Jessica Richardson, who documented the interaction, the manager’s response proved that racism was “alive and well.”
Sgt. Franklin Richardson had just returned from a 9-month deployment in the Middle East when he and his wife Jennifer went for a holiday picnic at a Kampgrounds of America in Mississippi. Then this white woman pulled a gun on them: “You don’t belong here.” https://t.co/1DMksZH2tG
Less than five minutes after the couple arrived at their destination, Richardson wrote, “a truck pulls up and a white lady screams at us.”
The woman, who identified herself as the property manager, jumped out of the black Dodge Ram and kept one finger on the trigger as she pointed a gun at them, Richardson told WCBI.
“She was just like, ‘Get, get, you don’t belong here, you don’t belong here, you don’t belong here,’” Richardson said.
Richardson pulled out her cellphone and began filming. In the video that she posted to Facebook on Sunday afternoon, a woman with short white hair and a yellow Kampgrounds of America T-shirt can be seen approaching the couple with her gun drawn and pointed at the ground.
The woman can be heard telling the couple that they should have checked in with the campground’s office.
“We didn’t know,” Richardson said in the video. “The only thing you had to tell us was to leave, we would have left. You did not have to pull a gun.”
The woman tucked the gun back into the pocket of her denim shorts.
“Well, I’m just telling you, you need to leave because it’s under private ownership,” the property manager replied. “Y’all just can’t be out here. KOA won’t let you.”
The couple left, Richardson wrote. On their way out, they stopped by the campground’s office. There, they met another property manager, who happened to be the woman’s husband. Confusingly, he contradicted what his wife had told them.
In a statement shared with The Post, Kampgrounds of America spokesman Mike Gast said that the company “does not condone the use of a firearm in any manner on our properties or those owned and operated by our franchisees.”
“The employee involved in the incident has been relieved of her duties at the Starkville KOA,” he added.
Researchers have found that parks are still widely perceived as places where African Americans will face unwelcoming, or downright hostile, treatment.
The past year has shown us that almost no recreation place is safe for people of color and in some instances, not even our own backyards.