As sad as it is to admit, Trayvon Martin’s death has done wonders for spotlighting injustice and racism throughout the criminal justice system. Since his murder at the hands of George Zimmerman the press, the Justice Department and social justice organizations have been going after “Stand Your Ground” laws, with their inconsistency being investigated all over the nation – and now the “Neighborhood Watch” dynamic is being put under the microscope, as well.
The latest Trayvon-related Neighborhood Watch crime comes from the North Atlanta suburbs. But it’s not clear if this is neighborhood watch, or neighborhood Klan.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution, in conjunction with local Atlanta news stations, reported on this story last Friday. Jean Kalonji and his wife Angelica were happy to be moving into a foreclosed home that their son had purchased for them in Newton County, just north of Atlanta proper. When the Kalonji’s went by their new home to change the locks they were confronted by two White men at gunpoint who threatened to shoot them if they didn’t leave the house. The unnamed men (a father and son pair) then held the couple at gunpoint and called the police.
The cops didn’t believe the Kalonji’s story that they owned the home and were simply doing maintenance and they were taken to a night in jail for trespassing and loitering. While they were released after one night, the couple is obviously distraught over this experience and Jean Kalonji, an immigrant from the Congo, noted that the cops and ‘neighbors’ treated him with the same disregard for life that caused him to leave the Congo in the first place.
Some outlets have referred to last week’s incident as out of control vigilante justice, an obvious allusion to George Zimmerman and the Trayvon Martin case – but I’m not quite willing to go that far.
This smells to me like good ole’ fashioned racism. Jean Kalonji is a Black man from the Congo and his wife is White, and they were moving into a new house. There is no indication that the men who confronted them were working with Neighborhood Watch – more likely than not they were just two racist White guys who saw an interracial couple hovering around a home they thought was empty and so they decided to act on their prejudices.
To refer to them as vigilantes suggests that there was some overarching plan of justice in mind as opposed to harassing an elderly couple that looked about as likely to be breaking and entering as the Costanzas. While the police claim they are investigating the case, it will be interesting to see if any charges are brought against this father/son due for harassment and trespassing (since they were on the Kalonji’s property in order to hold them at gunpoint) or if they will simply throw up their hands and pull a Sanford, Florida. We’ll keep you posted.