By Dan Spalding
Frank Nitty took the road more traveled and probably did it knowing it would cause trouble.
Nitty, as you probably know, is the Milwaukee man who is leading a group of Black Lives Matter supporters on a march to Washington D.C. in hopes of arriving in time to coincide with Martin Luther King’s anniversary of the “I Have A Dream” speech in late August.
He and his group gained local notoriety this week as they passed through Warsaw and were greeted with local supporters who fortified the travelers with food, supplies and probably some money.
Nitty said it marked the first time in their walk from Milwaukee that local supporters joined the cause and temporarily joined the walk – an apparent high point in their travels.
But everything went south quickly as they headed east out of Warsaw.
Instead of continuing to travel on the quieter, Old Road 30 toward Columbia City, Nitty chose to take his pedestrians and a caravan of cars along the heavily traveled US 30 on Wednesday.
Soon afterward, though, the caravan started causing a backup of traffic in the eastbound lanes because some of the caravan vehicles were moving slowly alongside walkers in the right-hand lane.
I was told he had been advised by some of his own supporters – and later by police – that there were better options than US 30. Police eventually intervened and arrested Nitty and two others on misdemeanor charges following a dust-up near Larwill along the highway.
The three were soon released after posting bond, but tensions began to rise after some feeble threats of retaliation were aired by supporters on social media. That led to counter threats from those who oppose the BLM movement. Those included calls for an armed effort to quell any uprising from people who were supposedly going to travel from Chicago and elsewhere to raise some hell (This paragraph was edited. Thanks to those who pointed out a poor word choice on my part).
By Friday afternoon, the online angst created a ghastly amount of hysteria in Warsaw. There was talk of the National Guard being summoned and a new militia group being formed. In fact, there was so much tension Friday that three police agencies issued a joint statement saying they were ready if anything happened.
All of this seems to be nonsense. Suggestions that Warsaw could be the next Portland are laughable.
Seriously, do you think people are going to travel from out of state to retaliate over the misdemeanor arrest of three guys who quickly bonded out?
More worrisome, though, are those who oppose BLM and seem to be trigger happy and eager to cause a confrontation.
But ultimately, the blame falls on Nitty, whose real name is Frank David Sensabaugh.
Nitty was smiling from ear to ear in his booking mug. I think that says it all.
To be sure, Nitty is not the next Martin Luther King. He certainly seems to enjoy the attention. On his Facebook Live feed, he often throws around talk of God and spirituality, but in the same breath, cusses like a sailor. It’s also apparent that he enjoys arguing with cops while being filmed. That was apparent in a video Friday in which he was confronted by police in Allen County over concerns about causing traffic congestion.
I’ve been impressed with the local BLM supporters who’ve organized four peaceful rallies and took the high road when confronted by antagonists. Their hearts are in the right place. They mean well and their cause is legit.
But in one short week, the movement has been hurt locally by Nitty and his antics and nationally by the looting in downtown Chicago where some protesters had the audacity to suggest stealing merchandise was somehow in exchange for reparations.
Stuff like that just feeds into the narrative of those on the right who contend BLM motives are less than pure. Hard to argue.
Recent rumors in Warsaw suggested violence would arise today, Saturday, Aug. 15, in downtown Warsaw. I am confident that nothing will happen and that 99 percent of this is nothing more than hot air.
At least I hope so. Cooler heads need to prevail.
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NO EXCUSE MAIL-IN UPDATE – In case you missed it … the Indiana Election Commission on Friday voted against a proposal to expand absentee voting by mail to all voters in the Nov. 3 election, according to numerous reports out of Indianapolis.
The state allowed all voters to cast a ballot by mail for the June 2 primary because of the virus, but Republicans have argued that it is not necessary to make that change for the upcoming election.
Republican members of the commission opposed a proposal by Democrats to make the change. The board voted 2-2, falling one vote short needed for passage.
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ELECTION COUNTDOWN – There are 79 days until Election Day. The deadline to register in Indiana is Oct. 5. You can register online here.
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Dan Spalding is the editor at InkFreeNews.com.
He covers city government and politics and always welcomes your input.
He can be reached at [email protected] or at (574) 855-7612.