When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in April 1968, the mayor of Annapolis and the minister of a large black congregation marched hand-in-hand through the streets to call for unity.
Yesterday, former Mayor Roger "Pip" Moyer and the Rev. Leroy Bowman were reunited at a press conference to protest the acquittals of four white Los Angeles police officers in the beating of black motorist Rodney King. They joined more than 50 community leaders, ministers and police officers at Annapolis' historic City Hall to voice their outrage at the verdict.
"Not since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. have I sensed such bitterness and anger in our community," said Alderman Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, who organized the press conference with Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins and Police Chief Harold M. Robbins.
The group denounced the acquittals as "offensive," "revolting" and "an atrocity." Robbins said he was "absolutely shocked," and Hopkins compared the King beating to Nazi treatment of Jews during the Holocaust.
But the mayor and other community activists also appealed to the city to stay calm, and urged blacks and whites in Maryland's capital to unite against bigotry.
"The events that have offended and revolted us all in Los Angeles will not happen in this city," Hopkins said.
Ministers and representatives of social service agencies urged residents upset by the verdict to channel their anger toward improving race relations.
"We must join hands right across the board," said the Rev. Robert Powell, pastor of St. Phillips Episcopal Church. "Like the black and white keys on the piano, let us all join hands and produce harmony."
Moyer, who is now deputy director of the Annapolis Housing Authority, recalled how residents, black and white, held hands and marched down the red-brick streets of the state capital in 1968. In those days, he said, he was optimistic that the "terrible, terrible, ugly demon of prejudice was dead."
He said he was deeply disheartened by the acquittals and the rioting in Los Angeles, 24 years after Martin Luther King was slain. But he was optimistic the city and nation could "get together, my brothers and sisters, and we shall straighten this mess out."
Chief Robbins said the four acquitted men "were not professional police officers," and emphasized he was certain Annapolis doesn't have any officers "like that."
Alderman Samuel Gilmer said Annapolis police officers should not be compared to those in Los Angeles, but called for more sensitivity-training workshops.
The Democrat representing the city's 3rd Ward said he watched the amateur videotape of the Rodney King beating over and over.
"I want to know," he said, "what photos was the jury looking at?' "