By Damon Krane
June 7, 2001
The Athens News (Athens, Ohio)
On May 17, this paper published an interview with a young black man from Cincinnati who had been involved in recent protests against police brutality, leaving Athens resident Kevin Martin “personally offended.” Why? Because this paper ran a front-page story on a “criminal” activist who advocates “high-profile civil disobedience.”
First of all, the activist in question does admit to having a criminal record, including a felony conviction dealing with possession of a firearm. He claims the charge was false and that he broke no laws. Is he telling the truth? Who knows? I agree with Mr. Martin that the article’s writer could have asked more questions, but he didn’t. So all we’ve got to go on is the article itself, since Mr. Martin adds no more evidence, only speculation as to the circumstances of the exact charge.
What we do know for sure is that in addition to advocating greater black representation on City Council and the appointment of a black police chief, the Cincinnati activist is advocating civil disobedience. Maybe that’s what’s got Mr. Martin so upset. After all, civil disobedience does have a long and sordid history. It is associated with such awful things as winning the eight-hour day (as opposed to the 16-hour work day) and the abolition of racial segregation laws, so maybe we should hate and fear such lawless disrespect for disrespectful laws.
But Mr. Martin isn’t so deeply outraged by everyone who espouses civil disobedience. “Thank God that we do live in an idyllic setting here in Athens,” he writes, “being entertained by our local fun-loving peace activists instead of some gun-toting racist espousing civil disobedience.”
So let me get this straight, Mr. Martin: When white Athens Countians physically block the paths of trucks at the future Wal-Mart site and defy police orders to move, they are not criminal practitioners of civil disobedience; they’re just a bunch of “fun-loving peace activists.” But when a young black man from Cincinnati advocates civil disobedience to protest the murder of an unarmed black teenager by Cincinnati police, he is — of all things — a “racist.” Why the double standard, Mr. Martin? And why the ridiculous charge of racism?
Mr. Martin sees fit to praise the lord that we live in idyllic Athens where the activists are as white as the cops who arrest them and the only issue that the kids take to the streets over is bars closing early. But be warned, Athens NEWS, Mr. Martin has been “personally offended.” And if he has to pull his head from beneath the sand one more time on account of you, your paper will forever live in infamy among Bando instructors everywhere.