Hearings Begin in Charlottesville Riots Civil Case; A Well-Deserved Pardon for Boxer Jack Johnson; and Starbucks Shuttering Nationwide on Tuesday for Racial Sensitivity Training
Oral arguments began this week in a civil law suit targeting organizers of the “Unite the Right” events in Charlottesville that took the life of counter-protestor Heather Heyer. Defendants include alt-right leader Richard Spencer, who apparently struggled to find legal representation. The complaint alleges the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to incite members of the alt-right to commit various crimes, including intimidation and outright assault and battery. At the hearing, plaintiffs’ attorneys pointed to specific acts, including discussing running over counter-protestors (which is how Heather Heyer was killed and numerous others injured) as well as how to characterize such activities as self-defense. This case therefore posits interesting questions regarding the fine line between the right to protest and the criminal act of inciting violence.
Legendary African-American heavy-weight boxing champ Jack Johnson received a posthumous pardon this week. Jack’s crime? He crossed state lines with a white woman. Back in 1913, this was a crime, punishable under the Mann Act (although that statute usually was reserved for human trafficking). Jack pleaded for a reprieve, including sending a letter to President Woodrow Wilson while Jack was serving his sentence in Leavenworth. Champions of the push for a pardon included documentarian Ken Burns, as well as film actor Sylvester Stallone, who famously portrayed fictional heavy-weight boxer Rocky Balboa in the Rocky trilogy. Stallone has said that Jack was the inspiration for the character Apollo Creed, who was Rocky’s nemesis. Fun Fact: Stallone actually wrote the script for Rocky, which got Stallone his Hollywood big break. Former Attorney General Eric Holder also previously declared there was “no question” that Johnson’s conviction was a historical injustice. Put simply, there seems to be little doubt the only reason why Jack was tried under the Mann Act was that he was a black man having a relationship with a white woman. For a link to a Wikipedia page pertaining to Jack’s life and career, click here.
Speaking of combatting racism . . . Starbucks is shutting down on Tuesday in an effort to raise awareness of the need for racial sensitivity. Starbucks was slammed after a Starbucks’ manager called police to arrest two African-American men who were waiting peacefully for a friend at a Starbucks’ location in Philadelphia. In the wake of public outcry, Starbucks announced that it would close down its stores for specified hours on Tuesday, May 29, so that employees can receive racial bias training. The move – which is estimated to cost Starbucks 12 million dollars - is intended to promote nationwide awareness of this critical social issue. The move already has sparked nationwide conversations and no doubt will receive wide media attention. On a more local note, EQ4ALL urges you to take a moment to contemplate the impact of racism and what you – and we -- can do to make a change.