Racism, injustice are protested Demonstrations in Towson, College Park and Baltimore.

May 05, 1992|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer Staff writers Glenn Small and Michael James contributed to this article.

COLLEGE PARK -- More than 500 University of Maryland students and faculty and staff members joined in a "Walkout for Racism" here yesterday, leaving classes and work to vent frustration about the status of blacks both in Los Angeles and on campus.

Elsewhere, about 75 Towson State University students and faculty members marched from campus to the county courthouse on Chesapeake Avenue, a silent vigil was held at the New Community College of Baltimore's Liberty campus, and a College of Notre Dame student protest fizzled at War Memorial Plaza when only two demonstrators showed up.

The College Park gathering was organized by the Black Faculty and Staff Association in response to the verdict in the Rodney King police brutality case and to "other racial injustices on campus, locally and nationally," said Roberta Coates, the group's president.

"Please wake up. It's happening here, too," said Ms. Coates, standing in the center of McKeldin Mall. "We have been lulled into a false sense of security and we need time to reflect, to talk about what happened."

The protesters walked out of classes and offices at 10 a.m. The crowd gathered at the mall's fountain and chanted "No justice, no peace" as they marched to the student union.

Paul Butler, a doctoral candidate in astronomy who said his father is a Los Angeles police officer living in Simi Valley, where four Los Angeles officers were acquitted of beating Mr. King, said the rally was a way to show business can't go on as usual when injustice surfaces.

"I believe everyone, especially whites, has a responsibility to support efforts to eliminate racism from society," Mr. Butler said.

Robert Kirchner, a graduate student in linguistics, said he wanted to "contribute to the message that racism is planted deeply in this country and that everyone must stand up to it -- black, white and everything in between."

English professor Dan Virgilio asked his class to take part in the rally with him.

"I think it is important for the university community to be more exposed to outside events," Mr. Virgilio said. "Colleges traditionally foster elitism and fail to show the students the real world. I asked my class to come today because if you don't show support, there is no hope."

A microphone set up in front of the student union offered protesters a chance to speak about anything ranging from the King case to the possible elimination of race-based scholarships for blacks on campus.

"How can you boast about having a high retention rate of African-Americans on this campus but cut the means of support for them through scholarships and funding?" asked Gerry Lewis, director of Academic Support Services. "Racism is here at the University of Maryland."

The Rev. Kiyul Chung, a campus chaplain, discussed the conflict between the Korean and African-American communities.

"We, as Koreans, have been taught wrongly about African-Americans. . . . Only after reading the books of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King did I know my education was wrong," he said.

In Towson, Walt Fuchs, 49, a philosophy professor and veteran demonstrator whose shoulder-length hair is streaked with gray, marched with students, both black and white. He said today's students were more mature than the protesters of his youth. "The demonstrations in the '60s were very naive," Dr. Fuchs said as he listened to students make speeches on the courthouse steps. "I think they felt, we felt that things would be changed overnight."

The protesters marched north on York Road carrying signs and chanting. One sign read, "Officer Friendly is not so Friendly." Another quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Carlene Hawkins, 22, a senior political science major and a march organizer, urged students to write letters to Congress. "There's been a lot of injustice for a long time," said Ms. Hawkins. "It's time that something should be done about it."

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