'Grandview Five' women recall 'horrific' golf course confrontation
The five women alleging discrimination during an April 21 incident at Grandview Golf Club said the "horrific" situation was emotionally scarring and has affected their personal relationships and outlook on golfing in York County.
The five women, known as the "Grandview Five," took the stand during the second day of the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission hearing Friday, June 22, in York City Council Chambers.
The hearing was announced following a public outcry after a group of golfers, who call themselves The Sisters of the Fairway, made national headlines when video of them being confronted by course representative and former York County Commissioner Steve Chronister went viral.
The PHRC conducts the hearings to determine whether allegations of discrimination are valid. If deemed true, recommendations are made to both parties to resolve the issue without legal action.
Day two: During Friday's hearings, the women described the threatening nature of the confrontation and their feelings that day.
The women were "dumbfounded" by the treatment at the Dover Township golf course, said Myneca Ojo, the first to take the stand. She recalled that Chronister was combative and had angry body language, leaving the women feeling "threatened."
None of the men involved identified themselves during the two separate confrontations — one at the second hole and one on the ninth hole.
"We had been treated too horribly, and the heightened level of intimidation of the police being called was horrific to us," she said. "We didn't understand what was going on."
Chronister said he would revoke the women's membership because of them "breaking the rules," Ojo said.
He left to get a check to refund their memberships, she said. After the confrontation, he allegedly said he "didn't want this to be on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow."
After the incident, Ojo said she felt "unsafe" to play in the county because of Chronister's "influence in the golf community."
Sandra Harrison spoke about the emotional toll of the incident.
"I didn't want the attention; I just wanted to play golf," she said. "I felt like we had targets on our back."
After finding out the police had been called, Harrison thought of recent incidents of police brutality against those in the minority community.
"I'm thinking about (Eric Garner), I'm thinking about Sandra Bland, I'm thinking of Philandro Castile," Harrison said. "This could be really ugly. The cops are here for what?"
She said the situation has "taken a toll" on her and she has had to "seek some help." She related the personal shock and confusion during the incident to how she felt during the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center.
"You don't know what's going to happen next," she said. "What if it had gone the other way, and someone's family member had to be told they're gone because they went to play golf."
Neither Harrison nor her sister, Carolyn Dow, have golfed since the incident, she said.
Harrison broke down in tears before talking about the the women's lives since the incident and the future of her family
"The day has infested our lives," she said. "It's affected our personal relationships and golfing experience in the county. It makes me think of my grandchildren; they still have to live in York County after this."
Karen Crosby said she "isn't comfortable going out on a golf course like I was prior to April 21."
Since news of the incident spread, "there's been a constant attack," added York NAACP President Sandra Thompson, the last of the golfers to take the stand.
"This is something that needed to be exposed, but there are now renewed attacks," she said. "People have told me to quit playing the race card or that I should've just listened and remained a second-class citizen."
Still, Thompson hasn't changed her stance on what she believes motivated the incident.
"We were the only African-American women on that course," she said. "They treated us differently because of that."
Despite the racial tension exposed in the hearing, the PHRC hopes to see positive change come out of it.
'Springboard': PHRC Executive Director Chad Dion Lassiter said the emotional testimonies could do good for the York community.
"This could be the springboard of a collaboration between us, the mayor and the NAACP to talk about race relations in the county," he said. "We can make a change out of this."
The commission will review transcripts of the two-day hearing and send both parties a list of suggestions at a later date.
Chronister absence: Like the Thursday hearing, all five women were present Friday, and the Chronister family was absent.
The commission invited the Chronisters to attend in a June 7 letter, Lassiter said.
The Chronisters declined to participate in a Wednesday, June 20, email, he said. They claimed they didn't have adequate notice of the hearings.
PHRC disagreed with the claim that not enough time was given. Since the email, the PHRC has not heard from the family.
"I'm not disappointed that they didn't come, as we did give them a chance," Lassiter said. "They didn't offer their specific rationale, but it's their right not to come."
The Chronister family could not be reached for comment.
The first day: Witnesses at Thursday's hearing testified 911 calls were allegedly placed prematurely and the club's reasoning for the calls seemed to transcend a slow pace of play.
Police who responded to the calls and another golfer at the club that day said the women were the only minorities present, had done nothing wrong and received unfair treatment.
Hearing details: "The purpose of this hearing is to address the potential issue of racial tension," said Chairman Joel Bolstein. "This session allows the commission to immediately hold a hearing of any problem of racial discrimination or tension in the Grandview incident."
Hearings in response to complaints are common for the commission. However, hearings that occur based on national attention alone — like that raised for the Grandview Five — are "far from the norm," said Commissioner Michael Hardiman.
Three of the five women — Dow, Thompson and Harrison — also dual-filed complaints with the PHRC and the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission PHRC, which handles discrimination allegations at the federal level.
Dow and Thompson are filing complaints through Zeff Law Firm LLC from Philadelphia, and Harrison is suing through King, Campbell & Portz from Virginia.
The remaining two women — Crosby and Ojo — also plan to file complaints against the golf club, Crosby said.