A white Valley woman is facing heaps of online scorn, including threats of violence, following a video of her attempt to block two men of color from leaving the parking lot of Mercedes Benz of Scottsdale during the May 30 protest-related crime spree.
The Twitter video has racked up about 6 million views as of Wednesday afternoon.
In the video, the woman — later identified as Esther Jordan — accuses the two men of trespassing and can be seen using her body to block a white sports car from leaving the property.
"You own this muthafucker?" the man filming the video asks the woman, who's barefoot and wearing black shorts with a black top.
"Yeah," she answers, looking inebriated. "Maybe I fucking do."
My bf went to pick up a friend from the protest bc cops were blocking their cars & this lady has the audacity.... pic.twitter.com/JzVLKEEj7v— SK (@Stephaniekifner) May 31, 2020
Following a foul-mouthed exchange of words, random protesters show up and block her from getting in the way of the car, allowing it to leave.
Jordan is being held up by social media users as the latest example of a "Karen" caught on video, and the car dealership was targeted in fresh online reviews as "racist" after Jordan was identified by online commenters as the "wife" (actually the fiancè at the time) of the dealership's general manager, Vern Foutz, who also appears in the video.
The video was shot during or just after hundreds of people were looting Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall and vandalizing other businesses in the area, including Mercedes Benz of Scottsdale. Other videos posted online on the same evening showed the dealership, located at 4725 North Scottsdale Road, with holes smashed through its showroom windows.
Anita Theisen, the real co-owner of the dealership, said she cannot defend the actions of Jordan or her false claim of ownership. As a person of color who has been profiled herself, "we totally get the anger" behind the protests and "collateral" damage that occurred on May 30, she said. But that night there was "lot of glass crashing, a lot of dopamine and stress," Theisen said. "[Jordan] is definitely being victimized online right now ... It's awful."
Theisen said neither Jordan nor Foutz would be available to speak, but she promised to pass a message to them.
Scottsdale police are now involved "because we're getting these threats," Theisen said.
Phoenix resident Gary Wilson, who shot the video, said on Wednesday that he would not condone threats against anyone, but added that he didn't "feel any sorrow for her ... She should have thought about this before she acted the way she acted."
Wilson said he and the car's driver had not even been part of the protests, much less part of any crimes that may have followed.
He and a group of friends left their cars in the parking lot of Fashion Square Mall near Dick's Sporting Goods, then piled into one car and went to Old Town to party. Later, he was surprised to learn that hundreds of protesters had arrived at the mall, and took an Uber to the area to get his car. But he couldn't get near the car by that time due to the police response. TV news reports showed that looting and serious damage at the mall had started by about 11:30 p.m.
Wilson said he called a Scottsdale friend who came to get him, but his friend could find no other place to park but the lot at the Benz dealership. Wilson rendezvoused with the friend, and they were about to leave when Jordan stopped them.
"I don't know where she came from," he said. "She put her hands on the car, yelling at us ... I immediately put my camera up."
Wilson knew it was possible the police could get involved, and he wanted to record the scene for everyone's safety, including his own. The time stamp on the recording shows it began at 11:54 p.m., he said.
"I did not want to be part of the police brutality," he said. "I'm really glad I was able to record it. This is something that happens on a regular basis. This is not something new with the black community ... I've had numerous incidents like this — not to this extent."
Wilson said he finds it difficult not to label the woman's actions as "racist." He and his friend were not the only people in the parking lot at that time, but Jordan seemed to single them out.
"Why me out of everybody else?" Wilson said. "I hate to pull the race card, but that's what it is. I have to call it what it is."
What the Video Shows
The video starts with the pair asking Jordan why she's blocking the car, and she responds by asking them why they are trespassing.
"I came to pick him up," Wilson tells her. "I'm getting the fuck out of here."
He asks her what he means by trespassing. "Trespassing where you don't belong ..." she says, leaning on the front of the car. The men tell her to get off the car.
"Verrrrnnn!" Jordan calls in a hoarse voice to Foutz, who's standing a few dozen feet away. Foutz does not immediately walk to her.
"Get your homie, bro," Wilson says to her.
"Hey, we're trying to leave!" the driver says, standing up next to the car door. Wilson says something about "wanting to smack the fuck" out of Jordan. He tells the driver to get back in the car and walks closer to Jordan.
"Don't touch me," she says.
He tells her he won't touch her, and to move. That's when Jordan misrepresents her ownership of the business. The men are skeptical of the claim, to say the least. Protesters in the area can be seen walking in the video's background, and two of them — one wearing a red headdress covering his face, the other wearing a bandanna over his face with a Mexican flag draped over his shoulders — become curious about the confrontation in the parking lot and stroll over.
"Do you know her?" Wilson asks the man in the red head-wrap. He says he doesn't know her, and when Wilson tells Jordan again to move, the stranger springs into action, blocking Jordan like he's playing street ball. She skirts around him and says to the men in the car, "Why you trying to run me over?" The driver finally pulls around her after another blocking effort by the protester.
At that point, Foutz walks slowly toward the scene, and Wilson calls Jordan a "stupid bitch." She advances on him, saying not to call her that.
"Touch me, I'll smack the fuck out of you," Wilson warns her. They hurl further words at each other, and he dares her to touch him: "I'll knock your ass out. I promise you. I'll fuck you and your husband up."
"You just said it," she then says repeatedly, as if all of her suspicions have been confirmed.
As Foutz tries to lead her away from Wilson, the helpful protester sneaks up behind him and steals something out of Foutz's pocket.
The two combatants argue some more, and Wilson walks away and ends the video.
"I probably shouldn't have said that I would have fucked her up," Wilson admitted to Phoenix New Times in Wednesday's interview.
But he was angry at her treatment of him and his friend, he said.
The driver's girlfriend, Stephanie Kifner, posted the video on her Twitter account just after 1 p.m. on May 31.
"My bf went to pick up a friend from the protest bc cops were blocking their cars & this lady has the audacity ..." she wrote to her 1,188 followers.
was at scottsdale fashion center and these drunk owners of the scottsdale mercedes benz dealership were throwing hands with everybodyyyy but never got arrested or nothing pic.twitter.com/pmLXRN0Hrr— Moose (@uzimoose) May 31, 2020
The tweet by Kifner went viral, accruing more than 271,000 likes and 83,000 retweets. Nasty comments began appearing soon after. The comments, some vicious, poured in.
"Yeah, the owners wife is a racist terrible human," says a May 31 comment on Mercedes Benz of Scottsdale's Yelp listing, typical of others that would follow over the next few days. "Pretty much buy anywhere but this place. DO NOT CONDONE RACSIM [sic]."
Kifner announced on Twitter later that night that "we found her ass!"
She and other online users proceeded to display their dug-up information about Jordan, including her home address, and a 2018 arrest of Foutz's for assault (in which he apparently was never charged). Wilson posted Jordan's phone number, which numerous online users tried until they reported that it was disconnected.
Another video, this one posted at 1:38 a.m. by Twitter user @UziMoose, shows Jordan engaging in a confrontation with other people amid the dealership's broken glass. It's unclear when that video was taken.
Local civil-rights leader Reverend Jarrett Maupin, who has helped organize demonstrations in Phoenix over the past week, said he has known the Mercedes dealer owners for years and has a meeting with them scheduled for Thursday to talk about the video. The owners are "big sponsors" of a local polo tournament that Maupin participates in annually, bringing in "inner-city kids to beat up on the white kids" at the game.
Maupin said he was concerned that the dealership's reputation had taken a legitimate hit, noting that nothing in the video indicates that Wilson or the driver had intended any harm at the business.
"It was a very Amy Cooper thing that she did," Maupin said of Jordan, referring to a white woman who made national news late last month after she called police on a black man who asked her to put her dog on a leash.
Black people, Maupin continued, "spend too much money with that dealership for them to be treating people like that."
Theisen said she watched as the video's hit-count grew from 45,000 to its current 5.9 million, and as the online hate against Jordan and the dealership gained momentum.
She's in a "pretty emotional, fragile state" at this time, Theisen said. "Nobody deserves the online Twitter bullying ... I have compassion for everybody in this situation."
Part of what's hard about this, Theisen said, is that she fully understands that Mercedes Benz, as a brand, is a symbol of wealth that some disadvantaged people may want to lash out at.
Indeed, several other car dealerships around the country were vandalized by demonstrators on May 30. In a looted Mercedes-Benz dealership in Oakland, California, photos reportedly showed vehicles spray-painted with the words "eat the rich."
Theisen is the children of Indian immigrants who barely made $45,000 a year between them, she said. She's an architect who married into the car-sales business when she wed her husband, Chuck Theisen. The couple donate to education causes and they try run their business as "ethical humanist capitalists."
True, it's a Mercedes dealership, but the vandals "don't realize it's a local family that owns this" that has a stake in, and supports, its community, she said.
"My heart breaks again and again and again when I see other people of color treated badly. I completely get the anger," she said. "I've reviewed all of our internal footage ... This wasn't Black Lives Matter" who vandalized the car business.
"I'm relieved nobody was hurt in the demonstration," she added. "Property damage sucks, but it's all replaceable."
Nobody had been working at the dealership on the night of May 30, Theisen said. Foutz and Jordan apparently had been in Old Town and arrived to check on the business, she said.
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Theisen said she has no problem with her general manager's behavior in the video.
"He is trying to defuse the situation while she's having the confrontation," she said.
Scottsdale police spokesperson Officer Kevin Watts said that officers contacted Jordan and Foutz briefly at about 12:20 p.m., but police couldn't say more at this time.
"The investigation surrounding the entire event is currently ongoing. That includes the crimes that occurred at the dealership," Watts said.