More than 50 demonstrators lined the street in front of Sweet Tahoe Time, an ice cream shop in Kings Beach, California, on Tuesday to protest the owner, who made comments online critics are calling racist and threatening, in regard to Black Lives Matter protesters and made threats toward a Black activist in Reno.
Protesters printed out comments the owner, Beth Moxley, made on Facebook. Her Facebook is private, so This Is Reno could not obtain her posts and comments directly.
Moxley shared a video of a Black Lives Matter protest in which white and Black demonstrators surrounded a truck and RV on the highway, and wrote the caption, “Who let the ANIMALS out of their cages???” and “Oh look……MOVING TARGET PRACTICE.”
A Black activist in Reno, Lily Baran, commented on the post asking, “Also you just threatened to shoot me?” to which Moxley responded, “WE are law abiding citizens. Apparently you have no respect for the law,” and an additional comment responding to Baran stating, “Kill or be killed. That’s what the world has come to.”
Moxley also commented on the original video of the protest stating, “What would’ve been really cool is if he electrified the outside of the RV (like we use to deter bears from breaking into the house) and then just LIT IT UP and shocked the hell out of all of them.”
Baran is a mother and teacher. She grew up in Incline Village. Baran took to the streets by herself and protested Moxley across the street from Sweet Tahoe Time two days prior to the protest on Sunday.
Baran said someone reported her to the police.
“Calling the police on a Black person who was unarmed and has not harmed you is unacceptable and should be illegal. It directly threatens my life,” Baran said. “Not to mention it’s terrifying, you know, fiddling with their guns, not wearing a mask while speaking with me as well, directly harmful. I feel traumatized for sure from the situation.”
Baran posted a video of the altercation in the Black Lives Matter Reno-Sparks Facebook page, garnering support from people in the community. Baran said her friends organized Tuesday’s mid-day protest.
The demonstrators were a mix of Lake Tahoe locals, Reno-Sparks community members and people who were vacationing at Kings Beach who decided to join.
Baran commented on what she hopes Moxley learns from the protest.
“I hope that Beth tries to heal her racism by reading some books, changing her friendship circles. I hope that she would like to reach out to me and to directly apologize. I hope that she reaches out to the police officers whose time they wasted, and her community whose municipal fund she wasted, and apologizes to them,” she said.
Jarryd, who did not want to provide his last name, is from Tahoe City. He stated what he wants to see from Moxley.
“I don’t want to see no regular, like, scripted apology,” he said. “I’d really like to see change. I’d like to see maybe make some donations to Black organizations, the Bail Project for protesters, and things like that. Put your money where your mouth is literally and figuratively.”
Moxley makes an appearance after full day of protest
After eight-and-a-half hours of protesting, and with about 10 people remaining, Moxley made an appearance at the ice cream shop, and asked Baran what she could do.
Baran told her to make a donation to Color of Change, a racial justice organization, suggested literature that she can read and explained why calling the police on unarmed Black people is dangerous, noting the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Moxley apologized and said, “Black Lives Matter.”
“She said, ‘What do I do?,’ and I was like…I think you need to host a community talk or several community talks at your business so we can talk about why things like calling the police is racist, especially on me, when I’m alone doing nothing,” Baran told This Is Reno on Friday.
Moxley alleged that a customer was the one who called the police. Moxley and Baran took a photo hugging, and Moxley made a $1,000 donation to Color of Change at 9:25 p.m. on Tuesday.
“I just feel like there is a way that she can get past this,” Baran told This Is Reno on Friday. “It’s not going to be as easy as just a donation.”
The internet has been less forgiving to Moxley. Her phone has been ringing off the hook with people calling her racist.
There were so many negative reviews on Sweet Tahoe Time’s Yelp page, Yelp disabled the ability to make a review with a message that reads, “This business recently gained public attention resulting in people posting their views to this page, so we have temporarily disabled the ability to post here as we work to investigate the content. While racism has no place on Yelp and we unequivocally reject racism in any form, all reviews on Yelp must reflect an actual first-hand consumer experience.”
“I feel like it was just an insensitive comment, but I was upset watching what they were doing to the RV,” Moxley told This Is Reno in regard to her caption on the Black Lives Matter protest video. “I was angry about what was happening to the people inside this RV, and it was stupid. It was insensitive, but who out there in the world has not made a stupid, insensitive comment that they regret. I now realize that it’s very sensitive times right now. The world is a very frightening place, and I was wrong. I’m an idiot. I screwed up. I made a comment that…now people are taking that post and that comment and have labeled me a racist, and that has destroyed my life.”
Tensions run high between business owners and protestors
Tensions ran high before the protest. Moxley voiced her concerns online that people wanted to burn down her business, though, Baran said the protest’s goal was always to be peaceful.
A friend of Moxley tagged her in a Facebook post that read, “A racist hate group is planning a protest/riot at Sweet Tahoe Time at Kings Beach Tomorrow 7/21 @noon HELP!!”
A family member also attempted to gather bikers in the area to defend the business.
“Call out to all my bad ass biker brother’s and sister’s, who feels like a lil ride to King’s [sic] Beach tomorrow. I have a family member who needs some support against a hate group planning to riot and loot her Ice Cream Business at noon,” the Facebook post said.
Moxley’s husband and friend were on the property during the protest, but there were no counter-protesters, except for the occasional middle finger from cars passing by. A majority of the California drivers honked their horns in support.
Danielle Hankinson has lived in Kings Beach for more than 20 years, and her two daughters were born there. Hankinson said she’s had previous negative interactions with Moxley.
“She wrote, a few months ago, ‘All lives splatter,’ and that really got me,” Hankinson said. “So, I commented on her Facebook, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t support your business,’ and then she went off on a tirade,” Hankinson said.
A handful of beach goers walked up to the Sweet Tahoe Time during the protest. Instead of eating a frozen treat, they were handed printed screenshots of Moxley’s social media posts and directed to the next nearest ice cream shop. Some even joined the protest for a short period, including one man who said he was from Hawaii and already happened to be wearing a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt.
A majority of the demonstrators live in the Lake Tahoe area. Rob Kominsky lives two blocks away from Sweet Tahoe Time and also commented that Moxley’s decision to close shop for the day cost her business.
Kominsky wielded a cardboard sign that said, “Expose your local racists.”
“It’s a movement right now, and we’re telling people we’re not going to stand for this,” Kominsky said. “Even in a small mountain town, Kings Beach, if you’re racist, and you want to spread your views in our community, racist views, violent views, you’re going to get called out, and your business isn’t welcome here.”
Sweet Tahoe Time has remained closed since Tuesday.
Protest makes stop at Moxley’s house
In the middle of the protest outside of Sweet Tahoe Time, a few dozen protesters ascended a hill to confront Moxley at her house. Moxley wasn’t home, so protesters said they would remain in place until she returned.
Within 10 minutes, the street was blocked off by Placer County Sheriff vehicles. There were several patrol vehicles on each side of the road, surrounding the protesters on each side of the street. Some demonstrators began preemptively passing out goggles in case tear gas was deployed.
Sergeant Mike Powers with the Tahoe Investigations Division arrived on scene as well. Powers said law enforcement were initially called because they were told protesters were on private property, and they did not want the demonstration to escalate.
“That’s all we wanted to do was keep the peace, absolutely. But, unfortunately, when they start to go on private property, everybody gets freaked, and understandably when people are this emotional,” Powers said.
Protesters moved off of the private property, but remained on the street in front of the house. Law enforcement remained on the ends of the street and had small interactions with protestors, who questioned why they were not wearing masks.
Powers interacted with the protestors the most, driving his vehicle to near where they were standing and said law enforcement were on standby while he tried to get Baran’s statement on Moxley’s threats online. Powers was unsuccessful in getting Baran’s statement. Protesters demanded that he take his gun off of his hip and put on a mask before approaching Baran.
“Just people yelling, that’s fine, we don’t care about that, but Lily [Baran] really wants to make a statement, we want to investigate. We’re actually here doing what she’s asking us to do, but everybody is so upset that we’re not communicating. It’s difficult for us. We’re here to help, and other people keep intervening,” Powers said.
Powers said he could not comment on the potential charges Moxley could be facing because it is an ongoing investigation.
Protestors then made their way back to Sweet Tahoe Time. There is a community conversation planned outside of the ice cream shop on Sunday.
Lucia Starbuck is a graduate of University of Nevada, Reynolds School of Journalism. She has reported on issues impacting Northern Nevada, including the affordable housing crisis, a lack of oral healthcare and challenges voters with disabilities face while trying to participate in the election process. She has directed and filmed two documentaries about homelessness.Through reporting, Lucia strives to shine a light on the challenges vulnerable populations face in our community.