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Louisville Activist Hopes His Presidential Pardon Inspires Youth

Community organizer Christopher 2x speaks at a press conference at Galt House on Oct. 13, 2020.
Community organizer Christopher 2x speaks at a press conference at Galt House on Oct. 13, 2020.

Louisville activist Christopher 2X said the pardon he received from President Donald Trump Wednesday will help him further his anti-violence efforts in the city.

2X said he can use his story of redemption — overcoming drug addiction, serving time and changing his life — to inspire young people.

“If I can help ignite something in them, inspire something in them, I'll use that presidential pardon, along with the state pardon, and let them know, you can make a difference. You don’t have to get a pardon to do it. Just be a game changer,” he said.

As the executive director of his Louisville nonprofit Christopher 2X Game Changers, 2X works with young people to guide them toward education and away from violence.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany cited that work in a statement announcing 2X’s pardon.

“Today, Mr. II X runs a non-profit organization, Game Changers, which is dedicated to guiding youth to productive, meaningful lives. He is also widely credited as a trusted voice of reason and peace in Louisville that both sides turn to if tensions arise between the police and local community,” she wrote.

2X’s pardon was among the least controversial of Trump’s pardons. Trump pardoned 25 others as well on Wednesday, including Jesse Benton, who was convicted on bribery charges related to the 2012 presidential campaign of Sen. Rand Paul’s father, Ron Paul. Sen. Paul supported Benton’s pardon, according to the White House.

This batch of pardons included a number of other high-profile individuals with connections to the president, including Charles Kushner, Ivanka Trump’s father-in-law; Roger Stone, who was indicted last year for lying to Congress; and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, whose convictions included bank and tax fraud charges.

2X’s pardon removes decades-old, non-violent cocaine charges from his record, where they remained after he served nine years in prison.

Recently, 2X has served as an advocate for a group of anonymous grand jurors who heard the state’s investigation into the police killing of Breonna Taylor this spring. In September, after that grand jury indicted one former officer for wanton endangerment of Taylor’s neighbor and none for her killing, Trump commented on the case.

“I think it's a sad thing, and I give my regards to the family of Breonna," Trump said, according to the Courier Journal. "I also think it's so sad what's happening with everything about that case, including law enforcement. So many people suffering, so many people needlessly suffering."

Three jurors have since spoke up to say they wanted the chance to consider more charges. But Trump praised the actions of Attorney General Daniel Cameron, saying he “is doing a fantastic job. I think he’s a star.”

As 2X discussed his pardons, he said he does not get involved in politics, and that the beliefs of those who pardoned him or contributed to his pardon are irrelevant to him.

2X said he was reluctant to pursue the pardons, concerned about what it would mean to dredge up the past. He also said he wasn’t sure he was worthy.

“I'm like, ‘Okay, why am I deserving more than the person … that has changed their life in incarceration?” he said.

He was concerned he would be highlighted more than others who have also done the work to improve, he said. But his friend Rob Givens, the state director for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and a retired air force brigadier general, convinced 2X and his family to pursue clemency.

2X said Givens insisted that his two decades of work for the community would help make the case. He agreed, but asked Givens to keep his efforts quiet.

Givens described the process of securing the presidential pardon as “intricate,” requiring lots of paperwork and coordinating with the U.S. Department of Justice and the administration itself. He said Paul, who called 2X Wednesday night to congratulate him on the pardon, mentioned 2X to the president whenever he could, and his staff spoke with Trump’s chief of staff about him “to make sure that it stayed on the forefront of their radar.”

Givens said he was proud of what his team and community members did to achieve this pardon for 2X. The White House mentioned Spalding University president Tori Murden McClure as a Louisvillian who supported 2X’s pardon. In 2018, 2X received an honorary doctorate of public service from that university.

Both Givens and 2X took note of their very different pasts.

“My past has been one of the military, which most of the things I've ever been congratulated on caused harm to someone, somewhere in the world,” he said. “And it's just a great feeling to be able to work with someone who's helping and actually help and make a difference.”

2X called their relationship “a unique combination between a street guy and a general, simple as that.”

The federal pardon clears the way for a full restoration of 2X’s rights, including the right to vote. Then-Governor Matt Bevin pardoned 2X’s state-level charges a year ago.

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.

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