Knock at the door: Protesters accuse C-Ville Weekly of "inflaming racial tensions"

Protesters held up a banner referring to an editorial comment made by Cville Weekly editor Giles Morris.

A crowd of protesters gathered in front of the offices of Cville Weekly today, outraged by a December 29 story the local paper ran that, according to one protest organizer, "threw gasoline on the fire of racial tension in our community."

Indeed, the story, titled, "Knockout: Victims of brutal Downtown Mall assault want arrests, and answers from police," told the dramatic and frightening story of a couple, Marc Adams and Jeanne Doucette, who claimed they were randomly targeted during a "late night stroll" on the DTM and brutally beaten by three black males in what they characterized as a "knock out game" style attack carried out for nothing more than vicious sport and fun. The story, after the Drudge Report linked to it, quickly went viral, prompting comments so hateful and racially charged that Cville Weekly had to shut down their comment section. Indeed, the story for many readers, commentors and bloggers across the country was evidence of a frightening kind of "black mob violence" in Charlottesville.

There's just one problem. It didn't happen that way.

As a police investigation revealed, there was no random "knock out" style attack by three black males, but rather a "verbal altercation" that escalated into a "physically confrontation" between the couple and "two" black males. Police also reported that Adams, who originally claimed to have been beaten unconscious, suffered "a loose tooth and some soft tissue damage." What's more, in a DTM interview with the two men who were charged with simple assault and released, it was revealed that they were both college educated, had no history of criminal violence, and were members of the gay community. According to the two men, who believe they have been unjustly charged, it was actually the couple (who they described as being "plastered" drunk), who were the aggressors. Both men recently filed assault charges against the couple. The two men also claimed that a third black male, who was not a part of their group, intervened during the altercation and struck Adams.

At the protest in front of the Cville Weekly offices, one of those men, Malcolm Stevenson, a UVA grad and a former manager at Eppie's Restaurant on the DTM, recalled his dismay at how he was portrayed in the original Cville Weekly story.

"When the [Cville Weekly] story came out," he told the largely African-American crowd, "I thought, 'of all people how is this happening to me?' I am so not like that. I've walked through this life privileged. I don't hit people, I use my words. And I don't tell lies. But this can happen to any of us."

"We have a social crisis in Charlottesville," said Kiara Redd-Martin, who organized the protest. "I've lived here for 24 years, and I have never felt more unwelcome. The race problem is real. And we must fight it."

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Jeff Winder, a coordinator for Wayside Center for Popular Education, which helped organize the protest, criticized Cville Weekly, and its editor Giles Morris, for "inflaming racial tensions" by publishing a story in a "racially charged way" without verifying what was reported.

"When you portray the news in such a way," Winder told the crowd, "there are real consequences for real people, and real people get hurt."

Winder helped organize a previous protest against Cville Weekly last year, when the paper ran racist comments in its former "Rant" section. Cville Weekly eventually removed the Rant section from the paper. Winder called on Morris and the Cville Weekly staff to seek further sensitivity training to better understand racial issues and how to report on them.

So far, Morris and CVille Weekly have been unapologetic about how the story was originally covered, despite the evidence that Adams and Doucette's account of the incident appears to have been grossly inaccurate.

Indeed, given what we know now about Stevenson and Spears, and the fact that the police investigation revealed that there was no random "knock out" style attack, the accounts of the incident that Doucette and Adams post on Facebook prior to the publication of the Cville Weekly story are hard to ignore.

"We had never seen these men before and have no idea who they are. They just enjoyed punching, kicking, and hitting us. They laughed while they attacked us, high fived and gave the distinct impression that they just thought beating on us manically was a really good time. They didn’t even want our money," wrote Doucette. "They were out to really hurt somebody and they picked us. It was like it was a game to them and it was fun for them to brutalize us. I realized they would hit me more the more times Marc told them to stop hitting me. It was surreal. I’m posting them [photos] here hoping somebody; somewhere will recognize these animals that need to be caged. This could happen to any of us in this community."

Adams, too, described events in similar fashion, "I had never seen these guys before they were laughing an high fiving while they kicking me and punching Jeanne I truly believe it was straight up sociopathic violence a la clockwork orange without prejudice or rhyme or reason…..they didn't hit me out of anger or to so me from doing anything they willfully Ganged up and decided they weren't t stopping until I was seriously injured."

Morris has, however, expressed dismay at how the public responded to the paper's dramatic portrayal of these claims by Adams and Doucette, with many using it as evidence of "black on white violence" in Charlottesville, saying he simply read it as an "unresolved crime story that led into a number of complex local issues."

Winder also took aim at Morris directly, referring to an editorial Morris penned that said that the city's historic black neighborhoods would eventually "melt away" and solve the race problem, and that the "educated, mobile, professional class that is Charlottesville’s future doesn’t have a race problem."

"What about Giles Morris telling us what the future of Charlottesville looks like," he told the crowd, "This white, privileged male who just moved here from Wisconsin tells us what the future looks like?"

Winder then led the crowd in a chant:

"Hey, C-Ville, we're here to stay, we are the future, we will build the way!"

Spears and Stevenson are scheduled to appear in court on February 5 for their involvement in the incident, while Doucette and Adams are scheduled to appear on March 21.