Teacher says stranger called him racial slur at local park, but police can’t help

PITTSBURGH — A local fourth-grade teacher said he was walking along a trail in Riverview Park when a group of strangers approached him -- one of them called him a racial slur during a heated altercation.

But police told him there is nothing they can do about it.

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Mark Williams, an avid hiker, told Channel 11 he walks the trail often and has never had an incident until Monday.

He said he is fed up with people illegally riding electric scooters through Riverview Park, so when he saw three men in the act, he decided to say something.

“They pulled up behind me and beeped and motioned for me to get out of the way, and I looked at them and went like this (motions for them to leave) and said, ‘you guys turn around.’ Then one guy sped up towards me and lost control and fell over. Then he started cursing me out, yelling at me,” Williams said.

Williams, who identifies as mixed race, told Channel 11 that those men began threatening him and even called him the N-word.

He was able to catch the nearly minute-long exchange on camera and reported it to police.

“I thought if I could record it and report it, things would change,” said Williams.

The teacher for Environmental Charter School said he tries to model his lessons after Mr. Rogers and said all he was trying to do that day in the park was ‘be a good neighbor.’

“They aren’t going to change unless someone shows them that they care. Shows them that we care about this community and we care about you," Williams said.

In the meantime, Pittsburgh police told Channel 11 they are aware of the incident, but so far, they haven’t made any arrests or issued any citations. However, there is a reason for that.

According to the American Library Association, hate speech is generally protected under the First Amendment. A hate crime involves a criminal act, such as vandalism or assault.

Officers are aware of unauthorized vehicles riding in Riverview Park, and patrols in the area have since increased. But Williams said that is not enough.

“I think in 2020 it should be illegal to use hate speech towards another person," he said. “We care about the trails, so it’s illegal to ride on the trails. We should care about people, so we should make it illegal to use hate speech towards other people.”