APOLACON TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- After 5 1/2 years of watching scenes like deer grazing on apples beneath her tree and geese paddling in her pond, Ruth Cohen wasn't ready for what greeted her Wednesday: the remnants of a burned cross in her front yard. "This is an outrage," said Cohen, 63, indicating the charred planks beneath the utility pole at the edge of the rolling Bowbridge Road site where she and Archie Johnson, 71, keep their home and business. "In this day and age, this kind of thing shouldn't happen." See my prior post, Thursday, November 06, 2008, Mostly African American church in Springfield MA burned down 3 hours after Obama elected, $2.5 million in damage.
Cohen, a retired Queens school principal, is Jewish. Johnson, a retired architect, is black. It was not immediately clear whether the cross-burning was motivated by racism, anti-Semitism, or something else. Cohen believes the act may have been committed in frustration by someone unhappy with the presidential election of Barack Obama, whom the couple supported. State police are investigating. No arrests had been made Thursday night. The couple discovered the remnants of the cross about 8:15 a.m. Wednesday when a man knocked at their door. Johnson looked out the front window and noticed charring on the utility pole, then discovered two charred 1-by-3-inch planks, each about 4 feet in length, beneath it.
Cross-burning is historically associated with racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, which used the burnings to intimidate blacks and members of non-Protestant religious groups. The FBI said it investigated about 20 such incidents in a recent two-year period; the Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that states can ban cross-burnings that are conducted as a means of intimidation. Cohen noted that Johnson is about the only black person in Apolacon Township, in rural northwestern Susquehanna County; of the 507 residents counted in the last Census, 98 percent were white. Frank "Buck" Russell, a local carpenter and friend of the couple's, described Cohen and Johnson as "probably the nicest people you'll ever meet" and said he was shocked that someone would target them.
"There are probably some racists around here, sad to say," Russell said from Whitetail's Bar & Grill in nearby Little Meadows. "But in this day and age, in this country, it shouldn't make a difference if you're black, white, green or yellow ... this kind of thing shouldn't happen." Russell, who has lived in the area all of his 51 years, said he examined the remains of the charred cross at the couple's request. He said the wood appeared freshly cut. "Whoever did this," he said, "had it planned." The Little Meadows area was the site of KKK rallies several decades ago, and a local woman who worked on Obama's campaign said Wednesday she heard tales of racist remarks directed at supporters. However, such overt acts of racism have been rare lately in the region, said Christina Archie-Brown, president of the Broome-Tioga Chapter of the NAACP. See my prior post, Friday, November 07, 2008, State police investigate cross burning on lawn of Barack Obama supporters in Warren County NJ.