Well-known civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson has broken national black leaders’ silence on a vicious mob attack two weeks ago that left a Clinton Township man clinging to life and resulted in one of the suspects being charged with a hate crime.
Jackson said Monday that the attack on tree trimmer Steven Utash was driven by “hatred,” “alienation” and “desperation,” the Detroit News reports.
In a telephone interview with the newspaper, Jackson said he hadn’t commented previously because he had been in Japan when the attack happened on April 2.
He and other African-American leaders have been criticized in online media, including Patch, and social media for failing to address the attack on Utash, who had stopped to assist a 10-year-old boy who darted into traffic and was accidentally hit by his pickup.
Five people, all black, have been charged in the attack on Utash, who is white. The youngest of the suspects has been charged with a hate crime.
Two days after the attack, on April 4, the 46th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Cliff Woodards II, said in a post on his Facebook page that he was hanging his head in shame due to the lack of comment on the attack by civil rights leaders. Woodards is a black criminal defense attorney from Detroit.
Several pastors and the leader of the Detroit branch of the NAACP also condemned the attack in a candlelight vigil last week, calling for an end to the violence that led to the attack.
In his interview with the Detroit News, Jackson said what happened to Utash was “wrong” and that the fight for justice and equality must take place “with one set of rules.”
He said the mob attack may have been the result of separatism.
“We live behind walls and don’t learn to appreciate each other,” he said. “When you have walls that separate people, you find the walls of ignorance, fear and violence.
“Sin is deeper than skin,” he said. “We’ve become so jilted by race, we make a distinction we shouldn’t make.”
Jackson compared Deborah Hughes, the retired nurse who stepped in and stopped the beating and gave aid to Utah until medical personnel arrived, to the Biblical “Good Samaritan” and said she should be “highly honored” for stepping in.
“I wasn’t put there to be a hero,” Hughes said. “I was just helping.”
As a nurse, she said she couldn’t stand by and allow the mob to beat Utash to death or the boy to continue to cry in pain.
At midday Tuesday, the total raised on the Go Fund Me site to offset Utash’s hospital bills stood at more than $177,275.
‘Shame on Us’
Following is “Shame On Us (A Rant for Steve Utash)” by Cliff Woodards II, as posted on his Facebook page:
(UPDATE: As of 4/7/14, four suspects have been arrested and some pastors have stepped up by condemning violence in the community and raising donations on behalf of Mr. Utash. Additionally, previous robbery reports have proven false, as his belongings were found in his vehicle when it was claimed by the family.)
It's been 48 hours and I'm still waiting on the outcry. It's been two days and I'm still waiting to learn where we're going to march. I haven't heard a peep from community leaders and activists. I haven't seen one teddy bear affixed to a light pole.
This past Wednesday, Steve Utash was beaten unconscious and left for dead after accidentally striking a child who inadvertently ran into the path of his pickup truck. From current police accounts, Mr. Utash who was not speeding or breaking any other traffic laws, immediately stopped his vehicle, exited and went to render assistance.
A mob of "people" quickly gathered and some within that throng began to violently assault Mr. Utash, striking and kicking him about the head. Someone also robbed him of his wallet, funds and bank cards. Then the cowards fled.
Mr. Utash, 54, a tree trimmer, lived in Roseville and is white. His assailants are black.
Five months ago, Renisha McBride mysteriously ended up standing on a Dearborn Heights porch at 3am and got her head blown off by the white homeowner. The story made national news. The incident created a local outrage.
Pastors preached. Activists rallied. Neighbors prayed.
The city was on edge for two weeks until Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy charged Theodore Wafer with second degree murder.
That same month Michael Scipio was videotaped by Grosse Pointe Park police harassing and mocking him. The black community was incensed. They descended upon Grosse Pointe Park to the point that the city went out and got a black spokesperson.
Today however, for Steve Utash, the voices are silent and the streets are empty. Even Let It Rip, a popular local television program airing on Fox2 Thursdays at 10:30 thought Mary Barra's congressional testimony more newsworthy than thugs in a black neighborhood beating a white tree trimmer into critical condition.
Imagine though, if this happened to a black tree trimmer who was passing through Roseville? Al Sharpton would have been on a plane before the man got out of surgery. Local community leaders and pastors would have taken to the airwaves and the pulpits in search of justice for this fallen hero.
But where is black outrage over their own who act so animalistic that they do reprehensible acts like this upon ANYONE, regardless of race? We have long been desensitized toward black on black crime. Have we now become insensitive toward black on white violence?
Twenty-two years ago and 2000 miles away, Reginald Denny, a 36 year old truck driver, unwittingly drove into a rioting section of South Central Los Angeles and was beaten senseless by six men simply because he was white. His skull was fractured in 91 places. He required years of rehabilitative therapy and his speech and ability to walk were permanently impaired. Yet most of his attackers were not seriously punished as the jury hung on all of the serious counts.
From Reginald Denny to Steve Utash...have we not learned anything in nearly a quarter of a century?
On this, the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination, let us remember that he marched, not just for black people, but for all those who were afflicted and downtrodden. He marched for civil rights. Not black rights. He marched for non-violence. Not hatred. He marched for justice. In fact, it was he who said "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
So today, I hang my head in shame at those in our community who would do injustice in our neighborhoods yet demand justice from others. I hang my head in shame that no one seems to be speaking out for Steve Utash except his family.
I hang my head in shame.
There. I said it.