Monday, April 23, 2012

White Man Who Held Interracial Couple At Gunpoint Invokes Second Amendment To Justify Actions (UPDATE)


Only a few news outlets have reported a terrifying story that occurred last week in the tiny rural town of Porterdale, Georgia. Jean-Joseph (61-years-old) and Angelica Kalonji (57-years-old) purchased a home and, acting on the advice of their real estate agent, went to change the locks. The property had been foreclosed and sat empty for seven months.

Unfortunately, the Kalonjis' joy suddenly turned to a nightmare. Robert Canoles and his son -- who live next door to the home the Kalonjis purchased -- suddenly surrounded the Kalonjis with loaded semi-automatic rifles.  The Canoles forced the Kalonjis to stand with their hands against the wall of their own home.

Robert Canoles claims that he thought the couple was attempting to burglarize the property.  When the Kalonjis tried to explain that they purchased the home, however, their neighbors refused to listen. According to Jean-Joseph Kalonji, Robert Canoles even threatened to shoot them if they did not "shut up."

Robert Canoles called the local police, and once they arrived, the officers arrested the Kalonjis. Some articles have mentioned that the Kalonjis did not have their closing documents, but possession of these documents is not required for persons to enter their homes. The Kalonjis said that they asked the officers to call their son to verify their ownership of the home, but they refused to do so.

Kalonjis Released; Police Might Arrest the Canoles
The police later released the Kalonjis and dropped all charges against them. Now, the police say that they might arrest Robert Canoles and his son. The elder Canoles has an interesting defense to any prospective criminal charges: the Second Amendment.  Sounding like a foot soldier in the Tea Party, Canoles says that he does not regret his decision to hold the Kalonjis hostage:
I don't know what they can charge me with. . . . This is my Second Amendment right. Look, this is the county out here, and we protect our own.
The Second Amendment is not a defense to assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment and other crimes implicated by this incident. It is shameful that Robert Canoles would invoke the Constitution to defend his use of an automatic rifle to threaten and falsely imprison an innocent couple. The Constitution is not an instrument of vigilante justice.

Was Race A Factor In This Incident?
Jean-Joseph is from the Congo, and his wife is from Romania. According to a source at the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Canoles are white -- although this information has not been mentioned in reporting on the subject.

Given the location of the incident (an almost all-white town in the rural South), the interracial relationship of the Kalonjis, and the history and ongoing significance of race in the United States, it is not unreasonable to believe that race might have influenced Robert Canoles, his son, and the police.

Would the cops have arrested a white couple who were simply trying to change the locks to their new home? Would white neighbors pull automatic weapons on a white couple, mistaking them for burglars, rather than homeowners?

It is difficult to answer these questions with certainty, but given the sociology of race in the United States, it is really hard to dismiss the operation of race in this incident. As Robert Canoles said, in his town, "we protect our own." By his own words, Canoles could not believe that the Kalonjis belong in Porterdale. Why?

UPDATE: Police have charged Robert Canoles and his son with aggravated assault, false imprisonment and trespass (just as I anticipated).Robert's statements are pretty damning.

For more on this story see:

Vigilante Justice: Police Arrest Men Who Held Neighbors At Gunpoint

18 comments:

Mike said...

While I don't condone the use of firearms to hold an innocent couple at gunpoint it seems you are trying to stir this into something racial.

You state, "an almost all white town", when in fact the percentage of whites is less than the national average and the percentage of African Americans is almost twice the national average there.

In a time of such financial mess in the U.S. where the number of foreclosures has risen dramatically it has increased the thefts of copper and other materials from abandoned homes. The neighbor checking on someone going into a home that had been vacant for 7 months is not at all unheard of. I

will once again stress I do not agree with them being held at gunpoint and do think Canoles should be charged but I take issue with you attempting to stir the pot with the big image of the confederate battle flag at the top of the page and references to the color of the parties skin which we have no way of knowing if that played a factor in the confrontation.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Mike - not true. This particular town is 94 percent white.

Also, the issue is that the nearly senior-aged couple instructed them to check with their son - but they refused. A reaction to a burglary at ANOTHER PROPERTY is not to draw rifles on the individuals and threaten to shoot them. The law of self-defense does not allow you to use lethal force unless you are threatened with lethal force. The neighbors clearly broke the law. The number of foreclosures is not an excuse for assault with a deadly weapon.

Your description of the neighbor "checking in" is very deceptive. Checking in does not mean approaching someone with an automatic weapon and acting like a police officer.

Finally - you fault me for "stirring the pot" by considering the role of race - but you are stirring the pot by dismissing the role of race. Denying the relevance of race is a very old maneuver in the United States. It has a very long history. People made this argument to justify some of the must brutal behavior in US history. That tradition is still alive.

race traitor said...

Race in the United States is always in issue and the Canoles are clearly racists as there is absolutely no conceivable way in which they would have pulled a gun on a white coupe in their late fifties (and that isn't even going into the issue of the relationship between age and race). I totally concur with the authors point that the "not about race" card is in fact the ultimate "race card." In fact, anytime I hear the word race card I know that the person in question is white and a racist since I have never heard a person of color use the expression in my life and therefore can only conclude that the expression is being used defensively (and therefore clearly confirms that whiteness--my own ethnic identity for those who would care--is the ultimate TRUMP card).
The one detail that remains suspended in this story is that the police themselves, authorized to carry, are equally guilty in this case since they upheld the racist assumptions made earlier. Rather than look at this couple and think, what tells they shouldn't be here (presumption of innocence) they immediately assumed guilt. A sad situation, though far from unusual--in the South, or anywhere else in the US for that matter.

cotton said...

Mike is white, not right. funny he writes, In a time of such financial mess in the U.S. where the number of foreclosures has risen dramatically it has increased the thefts of copper and other materials from abandoned homes. The neighbor checking on someone going into a home that had been vacant for 7 months----(i'll finish this part for him)-- should have been handled by the police not two red necks with AR15's. Call the police let them handle it.
White Population in Porterdale, GA
The estimated White population in the Porterdale community is 1,186, which is 92.6 percent of the total population (The U.S. average is 75.10%).
Black Population in Porterdale, Georgia
The estimated Black/African American population is 63, which is 4.9 percent of the total population in town (The U.S. average is 12.30%).
If it wasn't a race issue, well I guess it was just a stupid issue. Pick one.

Mike said...

I guess it is too small a town to have a demographic breakdown on the census website but from what I found was, http://www.city-data.com/city/Porterdale-Georgia.html, the population breakdown was as I stated.

I did see some numbers for the year 2000 that show numbers closer to what you state but people do move and demographics change.

I also stated, "I will once again stress I do not agree with them being held at gunpoint and do think Canoles should be charged". To dismiss it as if I condone the activity is just blatantly wrong.

Is there anything to lend credence that this was racially motivated? I didn't see anything written, anywhere, that would give rise to the thought, only assumptions and preconceived notions.

If you consider me stirring the pot by questioning your blog then so be it. I just see no proof.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Mike: I never said you condoned the behavior. I questioned why your default assumption was that race is irrelevant. Given the history and current status of race in the US, that assumption is pretty dubious.

Finally, you were the one who accused me of stirring up race. But you are stirring it up by denying it as a possible factor in this incident.

Just because the few journalists who have written independently on this issue have not mentioned race, this does not negate race from the scenario. I have spent almost 20 years conducting research on race in the US - including the criminal justice system. As soon as I read the headline describing what happened -- particularly the arrest of the purchasers -- I immediately guessed the racial dynamics. To anyone familiar with race and crime, that was a very easy guess. The sad thing, however, is that despite all of the research that documents the substantial relevance of race in the US, people still become very defensive when it seems obvious.

PS: Can you imagine a situation were a white cop would have told a couple of black men "congratulations" for drawing guns on a pair of white home owners? And the likelihood of that same cop then arresting the white couple is virtually zero.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Mike: Why don't you look at all of the DNA exonerations. Just about all of the men are black. But black men are not the majority of inmates. There is a real problem. Denying it won't make it cease to exist.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Mike - here's the Census data: http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=DEC_10_DP_DPDP1&prodType=table

The %'ages have changed, but given the small size of the overall population, this is roughly a net gain of 30 blacks over whites. Which could be accomplished by 15 whites moving out and 15 blacks moving in.

Also - The movement does not tell us about the Canoleses. If he grew up in this place or lived there a long time, he is a part of its fabric -- which is not multiracial.

Finally, the percentage of blacks in this town is lower than the Georgia percentage. And neither stat tells us residential concentration. DC is about 60 percent black, but blacks and whites don't live in the same neighborhoods, generally. There is an abundance of residential segregation in the US.

Mike said...

Darren- So apparently my demographics posted were correct and yours were way off and you say this could have been accomplished by moving 15 whites out and 15 blacks in?
Moving 15 whites out would drop your originally posted 94% down to 93% which would be nowhere near the true number that is 66.5% white.

The key words in your posts tell it all, "possible factor", "does not tell us". You are essentially throwing race out there because it could possibly be a factor. Race could possibly be a factor in every facet of every movement anyone makes in the world. Are we to consider everything done at all times racially motivated? Where does that get us?

As far as DNA exclusions there have been a total of about 289 out of over 1.6 million inmates at any one time in the U.S. correction system. 180 blacks have been freed by DNA as have been 82 whites. I would certainly not refer to that as, "Just about all of the men are black.". Unless we also have a breakdown of prison population by crimes where DNA was a factor, such as rape and murder, it is hard to say what the numbers truly reflect.

The percentage of black incarcerated males is 39% of the total U.S. prison population. The percentage of whites is 31%. The numbers of exonerated blacks were higher than the number of exonerated white by a good margin but the sample size we are working with, .00018 of the total prison population, is not a large enough sample group to make a strong argument on.

I never said race was irrelevant in the case, I said that we had no way of knowing. You on the other hand immediately stated that race was a factor without any proof, only your own assumptions.

Yes, there is still an abundance of residential segregation in the country and there are many times when a incident comes up where race is a factor but to assume that race is a factor without knowing if it actually was is wrong.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

I never said that EVERYTHING is racially motivated. You seem to think that the baseline in the US is race-neutrality. You are mistaken. The DNA stat that I mentioned is for the death penalty - but even the one you posted shows a tremendous racial disparity. Yet, you still want to hide your head in the sand. The most interesting aspect of your last post is the comment "where will that get us"? You seem to believe that considering race is negative. Well, hiding from it is what keeps inequality alive. Race is clearly more relevant than you believe. I'm wondering what background you have on the subject that convinces you otherwise.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...
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Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Something else I noticed - there is no way to justify those DNA stats by considering the percentages of blacks and whites in prison or for each particular crime. Your own data has blacks getting exonerated over 200% more than whites. Blacks are disproportionately incarcerated (in part due to bias in the legal system), but they are not a majority of offenders. So your point is simply another expression of your apparent fear of the reality of race in the US.

Also - sorry, about the percentage. I was off by a factor of ten. Still very small movement (150 v 150). And I am the one who posted the Census data that you said did not exist. So, I'm clearly not hiding from anything.

Also - you didn't address residential segregation, which still exists. Frankly, the racial composition of the city was only one factor I listed. Even in NYC, cops can pump several dozen bullets into black men and get acquitted. Rodney King's assailants were FILMED clubbing him, but it took two prosecutions to get any type of relief. So, yes, I believe that race remains relevant.

I encourage you to look at the historical efforts to either dismiss the relevance of race or the need for remedies. As I said before, this country has a long tradition of this type of thinking. It began before the Civil War. Slavery was "friendly" to blacks. It had nothing to do with racism. After the Civil War -- segregation was friendly to blacks. It had nothing to do with racism. In Plessy v Ferguson, the Supreme Court stated that blacks were simply making up racism when they said that mandated segregation was based on the notion of white supremacy and black inferiority.

These same arguments have persisted throughout US history. Opponents of Civil Rights in the '60s, argued that the South was not discriminating on the basis of race. Blacks were just unqualified (to do anything, apparently - not even voting). The "race card" originated with whites. And it continues today.

RACIAL EXHAUSTION. That's what I call it.
http://lawreview.wustl.edu/inprint/86/4/hutchinson.pdf

If you have contrary research that proves the US has reached a baseline of race-neutrality, please post it. A lot of social scientists would be pretty shocked to discover this data. Happy searching.

dreamweaverdesign said...
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dreamweaverdesign said...
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Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

JGX - your observations do not change anything. If you suspect that someone is burglarizing an empty home next to yours -- the proper and sane response is to call the police and remain safely in your own home. No one requires "papers" to enter their own home - even in a high-crime neighborhood. The neighbors' response was absolutely criminal. They had no justification for drawing guns on a couple who was on their own property. None whatsoever.

I think it is odd that you ask in what direction the guns were pointed. I think it's safe to say that they were not pointing the guns at themselves! Clearly, the older couple felt endangered. That was the intent of the neighbors. That's enough to establish aggravated assault under the laws in every state.

I am also puzzled by the great efforts to negate even the possible operation of race in this case. Not only do criminal justice statistics support this argument, but so do the facts of this case. And that's precisely where the cops fit in. Even before I knew the race of either party, simply knowing that two older persons were arrested after THEY were crime victims, led me to believe this was an interracial crime. My guess was absolutely correct. It was also based on decades of research and writing on the subject of race and crime. Upon what do you base your effort to delete race from this case?
A supposition that race is generally irrelevant in the US? That's insufficient proof. It is also a factually unsupportable belief.

The funniest thing about the "please don't call them racists" argument: Apparently, it's ok to believe that the two neighbors are a couple of gun-toting criminals -- but please, don't call them racists. Do you think these two groups are mutually exclusive? Which is worse?

Zenshin Roshi said...
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Aaron Eel said...
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Aaron Eel said...
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