Young supporters bus to Annapolis to back their man 'If you're not with us, you're against us'

January 15, 1998|By Ivan Penn and JoAnna Daemmrich | Ivan Penn and JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Arthur Hirsch contributed to this article.

In a quiet, uneven procession, two dozen men and women boarded one of three buses headed for Maryland's capital yesterday morning. The soft strains of a gospel song wafted from the speakers: "No weapon formed against me shall prosper."

The night before, state Sen. Larry Young -- the 24-year veteran of the State House facing expulsion for ethics violations -- had delivered a similar message to hundreds of his supporters in West Baltimore.

But the meditative mood soon shifted into an enthusiastic display of support for Young -- one that lasted from midmorning yesterday to early afternoon.

Once in Annapolis, the bus riders formed the bulk of a crowd of nearly 70 supporters, who cheered as Young arrived minutes before the General Assembly reconvened at noon. The West Baltimore Democrat stood on a low brick wall on Lawyers Mall, across from a statue of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

"Simply thank you for caring enough to be here with me today," he told his backers.

Organizers of the rally urged participants to stay calm and show discipline and restraint. Young led the solemn, silent line of supporters up the granite steps into the State House. An elderly man called to him: "Keep your head up."

Young's followers waited in the marble lobby while he took his seat in the Senate chamber. They followed quietly when he left his seat 13 minutes later, rejoining him in front of the Marshall statue.

Young promised to return today, to lay a wreath at the foot of a tree he helped plant in 1985 in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

He urged his supporters to join him, then bowed his head in prayer, as a minister intoned, "You have brought us out of darkness and into marvelous light."

For Young's supporters, the emotional demonstration began at 10: 15 a.m., when the last of them filed into three buses lined up at Union Baptist Missionary Convention center, a church and community hall, in West Baltimore.

"Power to the people!" shouted one woman climbing aboard.

fTC People whispered quietly together. Then, Atiba Nkrumah, a member of the Committee for Truth and Justice, a civil rights group, grabbed a microphone: "A vote today against Larry Young is a vote against them in November."

The group cheered "Amen" when Bill Goodin said: "We're not just standing up for Larry Young. We're standing up for ourselves."

Shortly before 11 a.m., an hour before the General Assembly kicked off its session with traditional ceremony, the protesters arrived in Annapolis. They prayed and chanted: "Power to the people. Power to the people."

Several carried hand-written signs reading, "We Put Him In, and You Can't Take Him Out" and "Civil Race War."

Jerome Graham-Bey of the Federation Moorish Science Temple of America in Baltimore shouted through a megaphone that Young "is a representative of us. Doing something to him is doing something to us. If you don't stand with us, you're against us. If you're not with us, you're against us."

Goodin told the crowd: "They depend on us to be divided, and we've been divided. We came down here today to make a very serious statement. We're not just saying, 'Hands off Larry Young,' we're saying, 'Hands off the black community.' "

While television cameras rolled, passers-by stopped to look. Several men and women from Glen Burnie joined the demonstration; others left shaking their heads.

"This is not a racial issue," said Herbert H. Lindsey, president of the Maryland conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who watched for a few minutes.

"I see this as an attempt to muddy the water," he said. "The people of Maryland have a responsibility to hold their elected officials accountable."

In the rally, some complained of other injustices. One man shouted that African-Americans won far too few lucrative construction contracts. A woman from Glen Burnie carried a picket sign alleging police brutality.

Her daughter, 15-year-old Jenna Davis, said: "Senator Young has done a lot to help the black community, not just in the city."

Pub Date: 1/15/98

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