An event in Wichita that made national headlines has so far turned out to be not the story news media enthusiastically promoted.
When two Wichita State University students — one a Muslim and also a student leader — reported they were victims of a hate crime, national news media took up the story. A Washington Post headline read “‘Trump! Trump! Trump!’ attacker allegedly yelled as he beat Hispanic man, Muslim student.” USA Today headlined with “Muslim student claims attacker yelled ‘Trump, Trump!”
From the Wichita Eagle: “A Muslim student at Wichita State University says he and a Hispanic friend, who also is a student, were attacked over the weekend by a man who shouted racial epithets and ‘Trump, Trump, Trump’ before riding away on his motorcycle.” 1
The Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Kansas) demanded that the incident be investigated as a hate crime.
On this matter, Wichita Eagle editorialist Rhonda Holman opined “Yet, regrettably, Wichita is making national headlines this week for an incident early Saturday at the KwikShop at 21st and Oliver that’s being investigated by the Wichita Police Department as a hate crime. … As described, the deplorable incident further confirms that GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s divisive, nativist talk is finding an audience willing to not only vote for him but also target Muslims and ethnic minorities for verbal abuse and even violence.” 2
But now it is reported that one of the two student “victims” has been charged with a crime. 3 The police report charges that one of the students — not the Muslim student — “provoked another to commit battery or breach of peace by shouting ‘Bernie Sanders’ at Joseph Bryan, rolling up his sleeves and stepping toward him.” 4 Bryan, who is the motorcycle rider alleged to have used the word “trump” in a hateful manner — has been charged, also. But apparently not for using the word “trump,” as that word does not appear in the police report. No one has been charged with a hate crime.
So shouting “Bernie Sanders” doesn’t seem to rise to the level of a hate crime, while yelling “Trump” does. Go figure.
But there’s something else. The Wichita Eagle jumped all over this story, both the newsroom and opinion page. But so far I haven’t seen an Eagle story on the actual charges that have been filed. (Oh. As I write this, the Eagle has belatedly filed a small story.)
Now we have to wait and wonder whether the Eagle editorial staff will walk back its — shall we say, “regrettable” — conclusions drawn before facts were known.
Who knows what really happened? Does it really matter? Does a scuffle involving three young people in Wichita rise to the level of national news, and does it really say much about the state of race relations in America?
But if the police report accurately describes the event, I have to wonder what charges will be filed against the two WSU student “victims” for lying to the police and the public. Will the Eagle editorial board pursue this deception with the same enthusiasm it showed for covering the original purportedly “deplorable” act?
- Morrison, Oliver. Muslim student at Wichita State reports attack by man shouting ‘Trump, Trump, Trump”. Wichita Eagle, March 14, 2016. Available at www.kansas.com/news/local/crime/article65903602.html. ↩
- Holman Rhonda. Stand up to intolerance and hate. Wichita Eagle, March 15, 2016. Available at www.kansas.com/opinion/editorials/article66248057.html. ↩
- Farris, Deb. WSU students accused of provoking fight KAKE Television. Available at www.kake.com/home/headlines/Students-accused-of-provoking-fight-they-called-hate-crime-376138421.html. ↩
- Wichita Municipal Court. Available at lintvksnw.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/charging-documents.pdf. ↩