Hon controversy takes an ugly turn

July 04, 2011

How quickly can a seemingly non-violent protest escalate to a threat to public safety and personal property? A recent controversy revolving around Baltimore's iconic Café Hon has made it apparent how easily that line can be crossed ("Café Hon owner Denise Whiting gets a restraining order against protester," June 28).

Cafe Hon owner Denise Whiting's decision to trademark the word "Hon" to protect her business and brand caused an uproar when some felt she was capitalizing on a Baltimore tradition as well as trying to create proprietary rights around the city's colloquialisms.

The debate took a more serious turn during Honfest, a summer festival and local tradition run by the Cafe.

Steve Akers, a fervent protester of the brand, allegedly opted for a more aggressive approach, allegedly harassing and scaring patrons by shouting slogans into a crowded Café Hon during the festival. Other allegations against Mr. Akers include trespassing into Ms. Whiting's businesses, harassing employees and cyber-bullying.

The sharing of strong opposing opinions can become heated, but as the Hon controversy illustrates, in these situations it is not always clear where to draw the line.

How far is too far? The verdict now rests in the hands of a judge.

Aditi Kaji, Bethesda

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