You know, for a group of people that love to talk about their First A amendment right to be an asshole, white folks really love intimidating those whose opinions don’t match theirs. Take for instance 51-year-old James Kleinhenz. He’s a Flagstaff man who, on Saturday, felt the need to verbally harass and then pull a gun out on a group of protesters.
AZ Central reports that Kleinhenz faces charges for driving while impaired, as well as driving with a high blood alcohol concentration. He is not, however, facing any charges related to pulling out his gun. Video taken over the course of the day shows that Kleinhenz was repeatedly harassing the protesters. According to fliers for the event, the protest was held “in solidarity with BLM and “in solidarity with Portland.” Kleinhenz was first seen stopped at an intersection exchanging words with the protesters. “You got your gun on you? ... You need it, brother,” Kleinhenz told one of the protesters before pulling a Thin Blue Line bandana over his face. He also told the protesters that he was going to “walk away because we’re better than that.”
That, dear reader, was a lie.
Only a short while later he could be seen getting out of his car and yelling obscenities at the protesters. When they confronted him he grabbed one of their signs, began cursing at them and grabbed his gun. All of this happened while a police aide was standing next to him. While police aides have no authority to arrest anyone, they could have, you know, worked quickly to defuse the situation as opposed to just standing there, as they were seen doing in the video.
Kleinhenz eventually put the gun down in his car but continued yelling obscenities at the protesters. Several cops arrived at the scene and began to crowd around Kleinhenz as he engaged with the protesters. Gravel is then heard hitting Kleinhenz’s car and he, along with the officers, run to the other side of the car. Kleinhenz begins to yell more intensely at the protesters before he is then restrained by the officers and taken away from the scene. At one point he is seen in the driver’s seat of his car only to be asked to leave by the officers. The video ends with Kleinhenz speaking to police on the sidewalk as his car is being towed away.
“I knew he was going to be portrayed as the victim after because the police were portraying him as the victim at the protest,” Joann Gutierrez, a witness to the scene, told AZCentral. After multiple complaints about the fact that a man pulled a gun out on them the police eventually told the protesters, “Okay, we got his gun. We’ll deal with it.”
According to those who have been actively protesting in Flagstaff, this is not their first encounter with Kleinhenz. “This has felt like an ongoing escalating thing,” Levi Stallings, a Flagstaff independent journalist, told AZCentral. “He’s been driving around fairly buzzed at protests before. He’s definitely said some menacing things, but this is the first time I’ve caught it on video.”
In July, a protest was held outside of Flagstaff’s city hall to encourage the city council to defund the police. In response, Kleinhenz organized a counter-protest of around 20 people. He was quoted by the AZ Daily Sun as saying “We’re with Black Lives Matter, of course. We want to see the change. Get the bad out. Bring in the funding to have more extensive training, bringing better quality type officers.”
For a place with such beautiful views, Flagstaff can be very ugly. It’s the one place in my home state where I’ve had people tell me there are places, as a Black man, I just can’t go because the supremacy runs deep up north. Considering just how outwardly racist this state can be sometimes-well okay, all the time- that has always stuck with me. So while it’s encouraging to see folks up there protesting, the fact that they’ve been met by folks like James Kleinhenz isn’t exactly surprising.