Group assails 'silence' on Denny's bias charges Jackson will join pickets Saturday

June 02, 1993|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff Writer

Members of the Maryland chapter of the Rainbow Coalition yesterday criticized public officials from the president to the mayor of Annapolis for failing to speak out on behalf of six black Secret Service agents who allegedly were denied service at the Annapolis Denny's last month.

State Del. Salima Siler Marriott of Baltimore and Annapolis Alderman Carl O. Snowden stood in front of Denny's with members of the grass-roots organization Peace-Action and city residents who also allege discriminatory treatment at the restaurant.

The "silence" from President Clinton, Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall, and Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins showed an "indifference" to the Secret Service agents' complaints and the problems of racism in general, Mr. Snowden said.

"We believe elected officials have a responsibility to speak out," he said.

Ms. Marriott added, "We're outraged that our leadership at every level have not spoken to it."

The agents, all Marylanders, were part of a uniformed detail assigned to protect Mr. Clinton during an April 1 speech at the Naval Academy. The agents said they sat together at Denny's -- in full uniform -- for an hour after ordering breakfast without being served, while watching their white colleagues finish second and third servings. The incident occurred the day that the Justice Department signed a consent decree with Denny's parent company to end alleged racial discrimination in California.

"Many people think this was just an isolated incident," Mr. Snowden said. "For those who argue it's a case of bad service and not discrimination, we take offense at that."

Government officials denied that they had not spoken out about the incident at Denny's.

George Stephanopoulos, then-White House communications director, said last month that the president is strongly opposed to discriminatory practices against anyone. But Mr. Snowden said that was Mr. Stephanopoulos speaking, and not the president.

Page Boinest, Governor Schaefer's spokeswoman, said yesterday the governor last week denounced all discrimination.

Louise Hayman, Mr. Neall's spokeswoman, said yesterday that the county executive has no jurisdiction over the incident. But Mr. Neall has met with Annapolis' Black Political Forum to discuss the incident.

Mayor Hopkins could not be reached for comment.

After a conference call with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, head of the national organization, Mr. Snowden announced plans for a joint informational picket at the restaurant from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Mr. Snowden said the civil rights leader will picket.

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