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