Opinion: Further Action Needed to Curb Violent Threats at Doo Dah Parade
“A death threat is not free speech, it is terrorism. In our violent age, all threats are serious.”
On June 7th, 2016, five people were murdered and four seriously injured while on a bicycle club-sanctioned ride in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The mad motorist who committed the crime is charged with five counts of murder and many more serious felonies. News of the crime, along with crime scene photos, was carried by every major news source.
Three weeks later, the Doo-Dah Parade reproduced that horror and paraded it about on the streets of Columbus with the suggestion that those killed and injured deserved it. The similarities are sickening. This is a disgrace, not a comedy.
The accounts of the incident and the apology made by Deb Roberts to Columbus Underground expose the organization as unaccountable, irresponsible, and ignorant of the limits of free speech.
Do-Dah owns this doody.
Their name alone is on this. The policy of concealing identities is wrong. Following policy, procedures, and orders has never been an excuse for not doing the right thing. Now it’s time to do the right thing, change the policy, identify threats, and work with law enforcement to secure public safety.
Furthermore, the apology made by Deb Roberts to Columbus Underground on behalf of the Doo Dah Parade is callous, cruel and empty. On one hand she tells us “I am sorry to those who get offended by some of the humor… ” On the other hand, the organization tells us they do not care if they offend people. Right side of the mouth, meet the left side.
I won’t quibble with Deb Robert’s insults. The hollow apologies are of little concern to me. I’m writing because Doo Dah incited violence and threatened the lives of the worldwide cycling community. That is not hurt feelings; that is just plain wrong.
While Doo Dah speaks of the freedom of speech, they demonstrate an ignorance of its limits. Threats are not protected speech. The Ohio ACLU’s handout, “PROTESTERS: Know Your Rights!” states, “The First Amendment does not protect speech that incites violence, is obscene, or is threatening.”
Clearly, a death threat is not free speech. It is terrorism. In our violent age, all threats are serious.
Neither is a death threat liberty. It is tyranny: in the instant case, the tyranny of hundreds of horsepower and thousands of pounds of metal speeding into defenseless cyclists.
As a retired race team captain, I can assure all concerned that the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club strictly adheres to the law and to safe-riding practices, yet the threats are constant and the consequences are tragic. We logged about one assault for every 100 miles we trained, and once a month or so, the threats were serious enough to involve law enforcement. The Doo Dah Parade only increased these tensions between law-abiding cyclists and the drunks, texters, pranksters and road-raging vigilantes that kill 700 cyclists a year.
Over my 40 years of cycling, I’ve lost friends, teammates and fellow club members to homicidal drivers. In May the number lost was seven, now it is 12. Every time there is a new threat or murder I think about all of them – their faces, their laughter, their broken bodies and shattered families. Worst of all (and this brings the tears every time, thank you, Deb) there is the selfish notion that I’ll never ride with them again. They only live inside the sorrows of my memory.
Perversely, Roberts suggests that threats of murder are one of ten forms of humor, and declares that is what separates her parade from others. No. Seeing a joke in the misery of a massacre is more like the one of the ten warning signs of a sociopath, which is something that separates law-abiding citizens from the likes of Ted Bundy.
I, like the rest of the world, have grown weary of the constant reports of slaughter and threats of death. It’s time to stop it. And the City of Columbus can help.
I urge mayor Andrew Ginther, Police Chief Kim Jacobs, and the Columbus City Council to review its parade permit rules and make sure that parades are not used to threaten public safety. Sanction the Doo Dah organization with a one-year moratorium of the parade, work with them to assure accountability, and overhaul its management to include those who understand the difference between protected and non-protected speech.
I know Columbus as a vibrant center of commerce and education. My parents graduated from OSU, I’ve worked with clients in Columbus, and my cousin practices medicine there. Doo Dah has done this great community a colossal disservice.
God help us all if the maniac who drove this insult used the Doo Dah stage as practice for the real thing.
If anybody in Columbus is inspired to help those whose lives have been wracked by the tragedies here, they can send contributions directly to the Kalamazoo Strong Organization.
The Kalamazoo Bicycle Club is also selling Kalamazoo Strong-inspired cycling jerseys for $70, with 20% of the proceeds going to Kalamazoo Strong. The jerseys sizes run small.
Member, Kalamazoo Bicycle Club