Ohio’s Oberlin College has achieved national notoriety for the zeal of its progressive activism. According to a 2016 story in the New Yorker, students have bombarded administrators with endless demands for accommodation, including abolishing midterms, banning grades below C, the addition of “trigger warnings” to classic literature and even an $8.20 hourly wage for engaging in activism. It isn’t surprising in this light that a hate-crime hoax, spurred by a shoplifting incident at a nearby business, was enough to put students in attack mode.
On Nov. 9, 2016, an African-American male Oberlin student attempted to buy wine from Gibson’s Food Mart and Bakery using a fake ID. Allyn D. Gibson, a grandson of the shop’s owner, refused to sell the underage customer alcohol, then noticed the student had two bottles of wine concealed under his shirt.
As Mr. Gibson called the police the student fled, dropping the bottles on the floor. A scuffle ensued when Mr. Gibson pursued him. Two African-American female Oberlin students, apparently accomplices of the suspect, joined in the physical confrontation. When police arrived on the scene, the three were beating Mr. Gibson on the ground.
None of these facts were ever in dispute, even among the three suspects, who all pleaded guilty to an array of charges. The first suspect swore in his plea statement that Mr. Gibson “was within his legal rights” to detain him, and that he did not believe Gibson’s actions were racially motivated.
Mr. Jacobson is a professor at Cornell Law School and president of Legal Insurrection Foundation.