Taylor Six is the criminal justice reporter at the Herald-Leader. She was born and raised in Lexington attending Lafayette High School. She graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 2018 with a degree in journalism. She previously worked as the government reporter for the Richmond Register.
A Lawrenceburg man running for a Kentucky State Representative seat experienced a first Saturday when the police were called on him and others door knocking for political campaigns.
Dustin Burley, a candidate for the 53rd District, was in Muhlenberg County, where he was campaigning on behalf of others as part of the Black Caucus for Kentucky Young Democrats.
“In all the years I have knocked on doors, I have never gotten the police called,” Burley said. “I have heard horror stories, though, from others that have.”
While knocking on doors, which he has done for over a decade, he went to a mobile home and walked into a fence gate to put a door hanger on the door when a woman stopped him and said he could not go through the gate.
“I said I was sorry, you know, there are different rules in different places,” he said. “I had no idea. I put the sign on the gate, and I didn’t walk through the door. … She told me she didn’t want to talk, because she was mad her roof was leaking, which I get that. I walked away and saw she was aggravated, which is totally understandable.”
Another member of the group walked around the back of the home not knowing what just happened with Burley, he recalled. He said the woman saw them, said they needed to leave, and they left.
“We walked back across the street to where we were parked and then the police came in no time and were behind us,” he said.
The officer told Burley and the others the woman said they were soliciting.
“The cop was nice …,” Burley said. “Campaigning and door knocking is not soliciting, and she knows that. Even when there are no soliciting signs, you can still leave a door hanger or knock, but out of respect, you don’t.”
While this was the first time he personally had experienced this, Burley said it’s a reality he has to be prepared for while campaigning as a Black man in rural areas.
“We were aggravated, and when you are a Black candidate in white counties, sadly it’s the reality of it,” he said. “You know people will be petty, or they will feel threatened when they see a group of another race they wouldn’t usually.
“They are raised to look at skin colors differently and that is just how people are raised — to hate each other. Sometimes it may as well be the 1960s or even before Reconstruction the way some people look at others,” Burley added. “Not only were we amazed, that is one of the sad things, cops are probably going to be called on candidates like us.”
Burley shared a tweet on social media that showed him and others in the group standing with the police cruiser and has received hundreds of likes, comments, and retweets.
It read: “Knocking while black in Western Kentucky and got the police called because we was trying to talk to voters about local issues.”
Despite this experience, Burley said it was still the best-case scenario of what could have happened and he will continue to stay positive.
“You have to have an upbeat attitude in this state,” he said laughing. “It is one of the joys of running for office.”