Rayne Burse was walking her dog Mojito near a canal in her new neighborhood Sunday evening when an older woman approached and shook a finger in her face.
"You’re part of South Miami," said the stranger, later identified by police as Maria Dorrbecker, who was wearing a long-sleeve button-up shirt and a towel when she emerged from a nearby house to confront Burse. She told Burse, who is black, that she would report her.
It was the beginning of a tense encounter, all caught on camera, that escalated when Dorrbecker tried to grab Burse’s cell phone and Burse punched the woman in the head. In the end, Dorrbecker went to jail for simple battery and Burse became a viral video star.
Online, the reaction was swift: Burse’s video spread through social media with captions like "When you think your white skin owns everything." And #MoveMojito — which Burse shouted to her dog after Dorrbecker reached to grab her camera (hence the battery charge) — turned into a viral hashtag.
when you're racist and think your white skin owns everything pic.twitter.com/o7PWmSCmcZ— BABY G (@gilossal) July 5, 2016
But in an interview Wednesday, Burse said she still isn’t entirely sure what led to the ordeal.
"It was shocking," the 23-year-old aspiring model told New Times. "She was like, 'Let me tell you something,' with her finger extended, as aggressive as she could, and I didn’t know what she was talking about."
Dorrbecker, who is 63, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. She admitted trying to grab Burse’s cell phone because she didn’t like being recorded, according to a South Miami Police arrest report. The officer told her that she had been identified as the "primary aggressor" based on the video, and Dorrbecker said she had never been arrested before and was not going to jail.
When she first saw Dorrbecker approaching her Sunday, Burse thought she might have accidentally crossed onto her property. But Dorrbecker said she had not. Burse, sounding agitated, made a comment about building a gate, and Dorrbecker said she would.
Burse said she hit Dorrbecker because she felt threatened after being followed, then harassed, and then almost grabbed — and doesn’t regret it. She’s glad she got it on camera to prove what happened.
"I defended myself," Burse said. "Don’t try to put your hands on somebody and expect them to react cordially, especially if you were aggressive before that and they were trying constantly to resolve the situation... You’re asking for it at that point."
Still, she said, she can’t figure out the "South Miami" comment, which Dorrbecker repeated over and over in the video. The neighborhood where the two clashed is in South Miami, a city of 11,000 between East Kendall and Coral Gables.
Its population is about 43 percent Hispanic, 35 percent white, and 16 percent black, according to U.S. Census data.
Burse said she recently moved in and had never seen Dorrbecker before.
"I think she was pretty racist and she was just mad that I was in her area," she said. "But at the same time, I worried that she might have been just some old woman with dementia or schizophrenia or something."
After the video took off online, Burse was inundated with new followers. MadameNoire, a lifestyle website for black women, wrote that the video felt "like a victory," saying the incident ended justly in a time when the nation is filled with racism and xenophobia.
Vendors began trying to sell "Move Mojito" T-shirts. Burse said she’s working on making some of her own, adding that the phrase is often heard around her house because Mojito "is always in the way."
If she sees Dorrbecker around the neighborhood again, Burse said, “I’m just going to pull out my phone, not saying anything, and start recording immediately.”
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.