Black members of city council criticized for barring whites Residents protest meeting scheduled for weekend

January 26, 1996|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Public outrage over a blacks-only Baltimore City Council retreat planned for today caused a downtown hotel, originally the host site for the event, to abruptly back out yesterday.

The Hyatt Regency near the Inner Harbor had agreed to provide a free meeting room for the two-day annual retreat, but hotel officials canceled when calls from city residents criticized the hotel.

"I think that was a good idea," said white 2nd District Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, a critic of the council's African-American Coalition members who organized the retreat.

But the leader of the 10-member coalition, 6th District Councilman Melvin L. Stukes, said the group will not buckle under to public pressure and will find another site. "I'm pretty stubborn," Mr. Stukes said. "We'll find a place to meet and we won't stop."

The coalition -- formed in 1988 to focus on black issues in a largely white council -- has been criticized for holding its annual .. retreat. This week, white council members became upset that they would not be allowed to attend.

In a flood of telephone calls yesterday, city residents told black council members they were being racist and divisive. Some residents told them not to attend the event. People also threatened to picket the hotel.

"This is not a segregationist group," said 4th District coalition member Sheila Dixon. "You would think that we have committed a crime."

Coalition members have said their aim simply is to figure out ways to empower blacks and better assist struggling black communities. But white members say the group sends a signal that the council isn't willing to work together on racial issues.

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