Phil Trexler, Akron Beacon Journal, July 10, 2009
The FBI has been asked to join Akron police in investigating the attack on a white family by a group of black teens near Firestone Park.
In a letter to the FBI dated today, Mayor Don Plusquellic asks the federal agency’s local office to help determine whether any civil-rights violations or hate crimes occurred during the attack last month on Marty Marshall and his family.
The investigation is being supported by civil-rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton.
“Accounts from the victim have indicated his assailants prefaced the attack with statements that could indicate a racial motivation to the crime,” Plusquellic wrote in his letter.
“Our priority is the same as it is with every crime: to find justice for the victims. But, it is also important that we carefully examine the motivation behind this attack and address that if necessary.”
Marshall, 39, spent five days in Akron General Medical Center after a group of black teens attacked him, his wife, two children and two adult male friends.
Akron police have confirmed from witnesses that the attack by 30 to 50 teens was unprovoked and that no words were exchanged before the attack.
The victims say the group shouted, “This is our world,” during the assault. Marshall says he also heard chants of, “This is a black world.”
The assault, in which Marshall suffered extensive head injuries from repeated kicks and punches to his skull, has not yet been ruled a hate crime by Akron police.
Police told the Marshalls this week that they were unaware of the chants until reading about them in the newspaper.
Marshall, in an interview today, said police questioned him late Wednesday night about the attack and the chants he heard. His wife, Yvonne Marshall, said she recalls telling officers and a detective about the chants the night of the attack.
The remarks are not noted in a police report released by the department. A box to denote whether the attack was a hate crime is marked “no bias/not applicable.”
Marshall said this week he believed the attack was racially motivated.
Support for the Marshalls arrived this week from the Rev. Sharpton, a national activist for the black community. A spokesman said Sharpton is aware of the attack and does not condone the behavior of the teens.
Sharpton’s National Action Network supports the FBI investigation, the spokesman said.
“These teens need to be punished as much as any dumb redneck in white sheets,” said Richard Jones, a Sharpton spokesman based in Cleveland. “Nobody should be attacked like this, whether they are black or white. These young men who are responsible need to be brought to justice.”
Plusquellic would not comment beyond the letter and a written statement, spokesman Mark Williamson said.
In [a written statement], the mayor said the investigation into the attack will try to determine whether it “falls under the category of a violation of civil-rights protection and should, consequently, be considered a ‘hate crime.’
“This ruling must, by law, be made by federal authorities, and therefore we are asking for their assistance in this matter. Make no mistake, most important is that the perpetrators are caught and brought to justice. I know that our police department is doing everything it can to aggressively pursue the investigation into this horrible incident.
“I ask our citizens to not confuse the technical/legal issue of a federally designated ‘hate crime’ with the fact that our police department is taking all necessary steps to solve this crime.”
[Editor’s Note: An earlier account of the attack on the Marshall family can be read here.]