When a Maine mother and daughter uncovered what they thought was a fraudulent panhandling scheme, they took a stand. And then, they were allegedly assaulted.
"I'm still hurting where he hit me," said Bonnie Gould.
Bonnie, and her daughter Makayla, were having lunch at a McDonalds in Topsham, Maine, over the weekend. They say they overheard people at another table bragging about how much money they were making panhandling, especially off of the elderly.
"He said the elderly are really good, they give you lots of money," said Bonnie. "That really bothers me. Bad."
The mother and daughter got cardboard and made their own sign that read "Fraud." When they went outside and stood next to the panhandlers, things got heated, then violent.
"We heard everything you were saying inside of McDonalds and you are fraudulent!" Bonnie can be heard saying on the video.
"That’s none of your business!" one of the panhandlers yelled back. After yelling several obscenities, two of the panhandlers can be seen on video getting physical with the mother and daughter.
Makayla said her cell phone was ripped out of her hand, and her finger was injured. Bonnie said she was hit below her neck. Topsham Police have charged Mary Rouselle of Brunswick and Carl Brown of Bath with assault. The two are expected to make court appearances next month.
"It’s our job to make sure everyone is safe and take a neutral stance on [panhandling]" said Topsham Police Chief Christopher Lewis. He said police have no authority to remove panhandlers from medians begging for money, because it is their First Amendment right to be there.
"It is up to the individual to decide whether they give them money, and choose to believe what’s on the sign," said Lewis.
Bonnie and Makayla say they support the homeless and poor – even volunteer at food pantries and donate to homeless shelters. They just want to be sure people are donating money to those who truly need it.
"I hope people see these videos and recognize them and not give money to them," said Bonnie.
The videos have been viewed more than 200,000 times.
Necn was not able to reach Rouselle for a comment, and a call to Carl Brown has not been returned. Police say they were summonsed without incident, and denied any wrong doing.