The Golden Pantry Incident

Knowa Johnson, co-founder of the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement and candidate for commission in District 10, was booted from the Golden Pantry on Atlanta Highway for alleged disorderly conduct on Wednesday, April 22.

But is that what actually happened?

Transcript

Knowa Johnson, co-founder of the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement and candidate for commission in District 10, was booted from the Golden Pantry on Atlanta Highway for alleged disorderly conduct on Wednesday, April 22.

Let’s listen in on the 911 phone call to find out more.

911 Operator: “Clarke County 911.”

Assistant Manager: “Yes. I need an officer here at 3495 Atlanta Highway.”

911 Operator: “Alright, what’s going on?”

Assistant Manager: “I had a gentleman causing me a hassle earlier. He left and now he’s come back.”

911 Operator: “Alright, what’s he doing?”

Assistant Manager: “He wanted to do a third party sale on cigarillos.”

Supposedly, this has to do with a 3rd party sale of tobacco. Hmm.. keep going..

911 Operator: “You said they were trying to do what now?”

Assistant Manager: “He … uh … the son came in to buy cigarillos. His card declined, he bought one. They backed up to a gas pump and the father came in to buy ‘em, to buy the cigarillos that the son could not get, which is a third party sale. By our policies, we’re not allowed to do that.”

Buying tobacco for a minor is illegal in Georgia. Johnson’s son was there in the car, and he did try to buy two cigarillos. This doesn’t count as an illegal third party sale – his son is of age. Are legal third party sales against their policies? I have a hard time believing that, I don’t know. Anyway, the third party sale thing really isn’t the issue here, so what did happen?

911 Operator: “Okay, um… so then what did they do to become disorderly?”

Assistant Manager: “He was confrontational, he wanted my manager’s name. I was trying to give that information, and he’s “let me tell you something!” They left, now they’ve come back. With both of them coming in here, I’m afraid it is becoming a confrontation.”

After being refused the right to buy something, there was a mild confrontation, as you would probably expect. I know I’d be mad. Why were the police called though?

911 Operator: “Have they threatened you in any way?”

Assistant Manager: “Not yet, no.”

911 Operator: “You don’t see any weapons or anything on them?”

Assistant Manager: “No.”

The police report gives a little more information, clarifying again that “no threats were made” and they said it was “an apparent civil issue.” Meaning that people were angry at each other but no laws were being broken.

Still, Knowa Johnson ended up being booted from the store. Why? Just because the assistant manager wanted to. He escalated a minor conflict with a black customer in a way that I that can’t imagine would have happened with a white one. But he is allowed to boot people from his store – property owners can remove people for basically any reason. Any reason that’s not illegal, that is. Refusing to serve someone because of the color of their skin is, of course, illegal under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But we can’t know what was going on inside that guy’s head.

I feel a little strange about the cops automatically siding with the property owner in a dispute like this, without evidence? But I guess this is an aspect of innocent until proven guilty – it’s tough to prove that the assistant manager was acting in a discriminatory, illegal way, even if it seems like that might have been what happened. Unless that’s proven, I guess, according to the law, they have to respect property rights.

This is the kind of thing that goes on in our town and in a lot of other places. I think it’s a reminder to us all that, no matter how well-known or respected you are within the community, things like this can happen to any black person anytime, still today. And it’s a reminder of how difficult it is to enforce civil rights protections, even the ones we do have on the books. Several commissioners have already expressed support for a more comprehensive, anti-discrimination law on the local level. I’m hoping it has teeth and that it happens sooner rather than later.

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported this channel on Patreon – you guys are the best! I couldn’t do this without you. And thanks for watching! See you on the next one!

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