"It's so easy to believe that Igor Kenk's an asshole."
That's the entry point to Save Igor Kenk, Toronto writer Christopher Shulgan's recent thought-stirring essay on the notorious but still only accused bike thief. Kenk was rearrested last week and perhaps, as Shulgan argues, mistreated.
There are reasons to hate bike thieves, and yet more reasons to hate ringleaders of bike thief gangs. But Shulgan has a point: Kenk may have kicked Toronto, but the city kicked back a whole lot harder.
Here's a review of Shulgan's pro-Kenk points:
1. His motivation was laudable.
The emotional appeal to bike-lovers is weakest here, but serves to humanize. The man, undeniably, loved bikes. Anyone who loves bikes can't be bad, can they? This is all assuming he was involved in selling stolen bikes out of a passion for two-wheelers, not quick profit from them.
No one can pretend to know his actual motivations, but Shulgan, with this argument, is illustrating how we automatically assume he was money-hungry and did have higher, if only slightly, moral motives.
2. Kenk isn't actually a bike thief.
He bought from thieves and occasionally commissioned bike theft, it's accused, but rarely did he steal a bike. This is true even by the police's own admission. Does it make a difference? Well, if you believe that Kenk felt "people didn't deserve their bikes if they were stupid enough to leave them in places where idiot crackheads could steal them."
3. What he's accused of doing doesn't make much sense.
This is Shulgan's riskiest suggestion: that Igor Kenk was set up by police. Shulgan calls attention to the fact that Kenk had so many bikes he needed extra storage for them. Why would he want more? He didn't. Kenk had enough bikes, but also had a reputation. When police finally decided to crack down on him, they did so based on his reputation, not any actual criminal offense. They set up Kenk for petty theft on the day they arrested him.
4. The bikes belong to Igor.
Legally, Kenk followed due process on the bikes. And since he did so, he's entitled to the ones that haven't been claimed. This won't change public sentiment, but does show the story to be more complex than some grisly scumbag ripping off bicycles, which seems to be the story many believe.
5. Igor is getting a bad rap.
The "let the poor guy out" argument comparing his stiff bail terms to those of murderers and million dollar corporate pick-pocketers.
So, does it all add up to a Free Igor Kenk campaign?