Some say Winston-Salem, North Carolina has a racism problem. Black firefighters have recently filed grievances alleging racism and discrimination in the fire department. Several cops were fired earlier this year for racist rants (one said a civil war was necessary to wipe Black people off the map). And the Winston Watchman calls the city “something of a showplace for racism.”
So, it couldn’t have been a surprise to siblings Nova Tempest, 26, and Olivia Pugh, 19, that taping a Black Lives Matter sign to Tempest’s car’s rear window would draw hostility from other drivers. The sign has been on the car for months. And sure enough, whenever Tempest and Pugh get into Tempest’s car and drive through town, they run into frenzied drivers who honk their horns, flash their lights, and/or scream profanities at them.
But Tempest and Pugh weren’t expecting what happened to them on December 3.
Tempest, Pugh, and their 17-year-old brother — who are all white — were on Lewisville-Clemmons Road when 55-year-old Rod Steven Sturdy (a white man) cut them off and physically assaulted both Pugh and the teenager.
The Winston-Salem Journal tried to speak with Sturdy for comment on the incident, but Sturdy just cursed and hung up the phone. Tempest and Pugh, however, were willing to talk.
Tempest said Sturdy’s behavior on Lewisville-Clemons Road was different from other drivers that have antagonized them. For one thing, Sturdy wasn’t looking directly at them.
“He was staring at behind my car so he could pull behind,” Tempest said. “I thought that was unusual. Usually, when people are upset at the [Black Lives Matter sign], they’re looking at me or making rude gestures. He was intent on following.”
Tempest pulled up to the dentist’s office and Sturdy blocked them from behind. Sturdy flipped off Pugh, so Pugh flipped off Sturdy. Sturdy then emerged from his vehicle, and that’s when the 17-year-old brother (whose name is being withheld because he’s a minor) tried to get out of the back seat. He didn’t make it. Sturdy punched the boy multiple times in the face, fracturing his eye socket.
Then Sturdy punched Pugh in the face twice.
While all of this was happening, Tempest used the car horn to try to alert the staff in the dentist’s office. As the staff came out to the parking lot, Sturdy called Pugh a bitch, then pointed at the Black Lives Matter sign and used the N-word. Sturdy got into his car and drove off, but not before Tempest and Pugh got his license plate number.
The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office tracked Sturdy down. He was charged with simple assault and assault on a female.
“We all have the right to freedom of expression whether you agree or disagree is of no importance,” said Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. in a statement. “The right to freedom of expression still and will exist, and we at the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office will charge anyone who assaults, harm or attempts to violate those rights.”
Tempest and Pugh told the Winston-Salem Journal that they want to make sure people understand that hate crimes happen in Forsyth County and they happen frequently to Black people and other people of color.
“We want to burst their bubble of privilege being that this happens,” Pugh said. “Maybe listen to people of color to whom it happens all the time.”