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Criminal Justice

Oakland Woman Harassed, Taunted by Proud Boys Supporter for Years

Written by Garrett LeahyPublished Mar. 07, 2023 • 11:31am
Susan Bowyer shows a sign she made honoring Black History Month, which was torn up and defaced with the words 'Proud Boys' and a picture of a target. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Susan Bowyer has made signs supporting social justice causes for years, often hanging them from freeway overpasses near her Oakland home. 

But some of her signs—she estimates she has made between 300 and 400—started to appear in front of her Oakland home, torn into pieces and with the words “Proud Boys” scribbled on the back, along with a picture of crosshairs.

“This is him saying, ‘I can fuck with you,’” Bowyers said. “It makes my hands shake.”

The Proud Boys are a North American neo-fascist, far-right organization, predominantly made up of men who engage in political violence and have been accused of playing pivotal roles in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots by federal prosecutors.

Bowyer does not know who is defacing her signs—or if it is just one person or more carrying out the acts. Since May 2021, she has had around 30 signs dumped in front of her home, been taunted on social media and even had a note left on her car reading “Proud Boys.” 

Susan Bowyer pieces together a sign she made in February honoring Black History Month, which someone tore in half. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Despite this, she said she doesn’t fear for her safety because no one has ever confronted her physically. However, she does find it infuriating.

“It’s upsetting,” Bowyer said. “I don’t like that he knows my address and is taunting me.”

Bowyer was the deputy director of the Immigration Center for Women and Children—a nonprofit providing services to immigrants in California and Nevada—and is now retired. Coming from a social justice background, she feels making signs is her way of showing solidarity in the aftermath of political events she finds upsetting, such as the Jan. 6 attacks or the killing of Tyre Nichols.

She often hangs her signs near Oakland freeway overpasses, including near Interstates 880, 980 and 580.

READ MORE: ‘Like 10 Times in an Hour’: Oakland’s Airport Plaza a Thieves’ Paradise

“When lots of people see them, and they honk, it feels like solidarity,” Bowyers said.

On Feb. 4, Bowyer hung a sign reading “Black History is U.S. History” on Sheffield Avenue over the MacArthur Freeway, only for it to be torn in half and dumped in front of her home, with the words “Proud Boys” written on the back and with a drawing of crosshairs.

Video courtesy of Susan Bowyer

Later that month, when Bowyers posted Ukrainian flag signs on Feb. 24—the one year anniversary of the Russian invasion—Bowyers returned to her car and saw a “Proud Boys” note left on her windshield.

“That was kind of unsettling,” Bowyers said. “I was only hanging them for 15 or 20 minutes, and then I came back and saw the note. He recognizes my car.”

At the recommendation of police, Bowyer installed a doorbell camera in 2021, and has captured two instances of someone dumping torn-up signs in front of her house, one on foot and another who was driving in a car.

Along with the dumping of signs outside her house, she has also been tagged in taunting messages on Twitter, some showing signs of hers and calling her an “entitled litterbug.” There have been several accounts involved, but the lion’s share has come from an account with the handle @oakmomresists, Bowyers said.

Susan Bowyers shows tweets tagging her Twitter handle and criticizing her signs. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Oakland police confirmed two reports of vandalized signs made by Bowyer in June and July 2021, but did not provide further information.

She has since contacted a police investigator who was assigned to her case, but says she has not heard back from them.

While Boywers finds the vandalism and visits to her home unsettling, she vows to continue showing her support for social justice efforts with her signs.

“I’ve taken some extended breaks from making signs when something seems particularly pointed or scary,” Bowyer said. “But it’s just that I get this crush of anxiety that pushes me to make a particular sign. I want to do something public that undermines hate and injustice.”

Garrett Leahy can be reached at [email protected]


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