Miami model Rayne Burse became a viral sensation over the weekend, when a videotaped confrontation with an older woman in her new neighborhood ended with a scuffle and the woman being led off in cuffs.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this in my 23 years of life,” Burse said. “I didn’t know it was a racist encounter until I posted it.”
Sunday evening the young black woman was walking her dog, a 3-year-old pitbull mix named Mojito, along Snapper Creek in South Miami. A Vegas native, she’d just moved to this neighborhood a week ago from North Miami.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
She was on the phone with her mom to calm down after an argument with her fiance. As she walked along the creek she passed a line of fenced-in backyards. Mojito — “a huge, bubbly doofus” — started lunging after iguanas, dragging her closer to the creek.
“I was damn near in the water,” she said.
When she started walking past houses without fences, she said she noticed an older lady in a blue striped shirt and towel approaching her. Assuming she was in her backyard, Burse asked the woman if she was trespassing and told her she was happy to leave.
Burse said the woman launched into a “jumbled” and “incoherent” tirade about how Burse “was South Miami.” Her mother was still on the phone, listening secondhand and trying to convince her daughter to walk away. Burse dismissed the woman and kept walking, but said the woman kept following her, at one point even jogging to keep up.
“I literally felt threatened,” Burse said. “She made it clear she wasn’t going to leave me alone.”
She was worried that if she just kept walking the woman would follow her home, call the police and “tell them a bunch of crap.”
“It would have been her word against mine,” she said.
So Burse started recording. The first video, after the initial argument, starts with the older woman laughing.
“I have to laugh,” she said. “This is funny.”
Burse, obviously agitated, is trying to get the woman to say what was bothering her on camera.
“When you brought your a-- out here, what was it that I asked you? Do you want me to leave?” Burse asks. “What did you come out here and do? Act stupid. So if you wanna act stupid, guess what, people are gonna act stupid right back at you.”
“All you literally had to do was say ‘sweetie, this is supposed to be gated off, this is my backyard,’ ” Burse said. She called the woman a profanity.
The woman laughed and repeated, “You’re part of South Miami.”
The first video ends with Burse walking away. She recorded the woman again moments later when she caught up with her.
“Who are you following? And for what?” Burse asked.
“Because you’re part of South Miami,” the woman responded.
“OK, I don’t know what ‘you’re a part of South Miami’ means,” Burse said.
“You know what? You’re in it, and I’m going to report you,” the woman said. “Wherever you are, I’m going to report you.”
“What are you going to report? That someone asked you nicely if they should leave your property?” Burse said. The woman interrupted, “It’s not my property.”
“Yeah, this is harassment, lady,” Burse said. With that, the woman reaches out for Burse. There’s a struggle and the camera wheels to the ground. The older woman wails “Oh my god.”
“Get the hell away from me,” Burse shouts. “That’s literally on camera.”
“You just hit me!” the woman yells before reaching for the camera again.
“Grabbing my camera again and I’ll hit you again,” Burse warns. Her dog leaps toward the woman and Burse yanks her away, “Move, Mojito,” she said.
The woman and Burse simultaneously called the police, but Burse had to run home to remind herself of her new address. She found her fiance sitting on the porch.
“I just punched this old lady in the head,” she blurted out.
One police report later, 63-year-old Maria Dorrbecker was tucked into the back of a South Miami police car on her way to a night in jail on a battery charge.
“It’s just wild that it happened like that,” Burse said. “I’ve never had anyone seek me out, halt their entire day to harass me. That’s something people do online.”
The young woman said she had to share this experience, so she posted it to her tumblr and watched the notes roll in. Other South Miami residents immediately chimed in and clarified what the woman had been saying.
“She’s saying you’re black,” they told her. “That you don’t belong here.”
Parallels were drawn between her and Trayvon Martin, the Miami Gardens teen shot dead by a neighborhood watchman while walking in an Orlando neighborhood.
“This is what we’re dealing with,” Burse said. “This is what we’re talking about when we say we have trouble existing while black.”
But what really drew people’s attention was the command she gives every day to her overexcited dog: “Move, Mojito.”
That line spawned an active hashtag, which quickly beget a website and branded T-shirts and hats.
Burse said she hopes the exposure gives her a better platform to discuss social justice issues and change the cultural conversation.
“Apparently it’s a really common thing. Old people getting out of pocket because they’re allowed to,” she said. “It’s 2016. We’re not our parents. We’re not our grandparents. We’re sick of it.”