It could have been anywhere, but it was Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, an inner-ring suburb of Minneapolis. My town.
The quote above was shouted during a racially-motivated attack on an 18 year old black man, Derrick Thomas, one of two black men - the other Thomas' uncle - to be targeted a by a group of 3 white men who were armed with an ax, brass knuckles and a gun. A white woman was passed out drunk in the car..
They beat and kicked the 18-year-old while screaming a racial epithet, and they ordered him to strip naked, he told police. Then they robbed him of everything he had, including his Air Jordans, blue jeans and shirt. Police said Thomas has a mental capacity of someone 8 to 10 years old.
"They were saying stuff like, 'We hate the president; we're gonna kill the president, his wife and his kids,'" Thomas recalled from his front stoop Friday, his left eye puffy and discolored. "They said every black person that comes through our park, we're gonna kick their butt. We don't like black people, period."
According to the Star Tribune, the Secret Service has interviewed Thomas.
The alleged comments about the Obamas drew the attention of the Secret Service, whose agents interviewed Thomas on Friday, according to his family.
"We will appropriately investigate, as we do all threats against the president," said John Kirkwood, special agent in charge of the Secret Service's Minneapolis field office. Such threats, Kirkwood said, are felonies.
At present, two suspects are under arrest and charged with two felonies, aggravated first-degree robbery and attempted first-degree robbery, and two gross misdemeanors, fourth-degree assault and attempted fourth-degree assault. The two latter charges address the racial motivation and reflect penalty - enhancement for hate crime. The third suspect is still being sought.
While the two suspects have criminal records (for burglary, terroristic threats, underage drinking and possession of burglary tools), neither (as is true of most hate crime offenders) was a member of an extremist group, and they claimed to watch BET not Glenn Beck. In fact, the sister of one suspect offered up the typical color-blind mitigation that we see whenever a white person is accused with a horrific crime.
"He's not a bad person, and I'm just in shock. He's not like that at all," she said on the back patio of her south Minneapolis home Saturday. "We have foster cousins that are black. One of his best friends is black..."
"Yeah, it was wrong that he took part in that, but it's definitely not a hate crime," she said. "That's just not my brother."
Yes that is your brother and yes this is a HATE CRIME.
Maybe the alcohol brought out his true feelings, maybe the non-stop news cycle of Joe Wilsons and tea-partyers and Limbaugh soaked into his psyche. Maybe the flagrant disrespect and proliferation of overtly racist imagery allowed him to feel he had "permission." Maybe the racial resentment towards a Black Preseident was transferred to the first black man he saw on the street.
Say what you will about Nancy Pelosi -- but she was right. The climate of hate, fear and violence is growing, and it is deeper than what we see on news or talk radio.
Make no mistake, these "hidden" racists are everywhere -- my town and your town.
Start calling them out.
UPDATE Thank you for responding to this story. As of yet, the third man has not been apprehended.
It is also be noted that there is no doubt as to whether or not this was a hate crime. Interviews with the second victim, 40 year old Johnney Robinson, reveal that racial epithets were directed at him as well.
It was (N-word) this and (N-word) that; I didn't pay no mind," Robinson said. "Suddenly they got out, and one said, '(N-word), I'm gonna cut your head off.'"
Robinson, his left cheek still swollen Friday, said one of the men swung an axe. As he dodged it, he was struck in the face with the brass knuckles. Before he knew what happened police arrived.
UPDATE 10/1/2009 3rd Arrest in Brooklyn Park Hate Crime