2 Bell backers say they copied racist literature

Candidate calls action `reprehensible,' says men `independent'

September 04, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,and Ivan Penn SUN STAFF

Two campaign supporters of mayoral candidate and City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III acknowledged yesterday making 3,000 copies of white supremacist literature that was then handed out in Baltimore's African-American neighborhoods.

The one-page letter, signed by a group calling itself the "Aryan Blood Brotherhood," was first mailed to voters about 10 days ago. It recounted in graphic, racist terms the brotherhood's "endorsement" of mayoral candidate Martin O'Malley, who denounced it.

Robert Clay of Robert Clay Inc. and the Rev. Daki Napata of Union Baptist Church said they copied the letter Thursday at a Catonsville office supply store so Napata could distribute it as a way of prompting discussion about racism. The men said they did not write the letter or mail the original it to anyone.

FOR THE RECORD - A photograph of Robert Clay that ran on Page 6A in yesterday's editions of The Sun omitted the photographer's credit. The photo was taken by Marty Katz.
The Sun regrets the errors.

"He wanted to have people read it for themselves because he felt the news media hadn't done a fair report," Clay said of Napata. "He felt it was a bad letter. He was upset because they were trying to blame it on some black group. He felt it was authentic and genuine."

When told of the copying yesterday, Bell quickly disavowed the material, saying he had no knowledge of it and his campaign is not associated with it.

"It's reprehensible," Bell said. "If anybody associated with my campaign is involved in anything like that, they are acting independent of me."

The handbill, which condemned blacks and Jews, first surfaced Aug. 24 in mail deliveries to voters throughout Baltimore. The mailing called on voters to support O'Malley, who is white. O'Malley immediately condemned the literature and its racist claims of support. No evidence has been found that the Aryan Blood Brotherhood exists.

Clay and Napata acknowledged the copying yesterday after Baltimore County police released an incident report prepared Thursday after complaints by employees of Office Depot on Baltimore National Pike in Catonsville. The workers had seen news accounts about the literature and called police after two African-American men came into their shop and ordered the copies. The employees said the letter was in a blue folder with the words "for Robert Clay" on it.

Clay and Napata have been involved in Bell's campaign.

Clay, who owns an excavating company, was most recently photographed supporting Bell at the rally Aug. 5 in which Bell supporters shouted down state officials trying to endorse O'Malley. Clay carried a sign reading: "O'Malley is a hypocrite."

Campaign finance reports also show that in five years, Clay has donated $7,500 to Bell campaigns.

Napata said yesterday that he has consistently spoken out against racism and has been distributing the white supremacist literature for shocked residents to see for themselves.

"Why are you surprised? Didn't you know this was going on?" Napata said he tells residents. "Racism still exists in Baltimore."

Napata also has been active in the Bell campaign. Campaign finance reports released two weeks ago showed him receiving $500 from the campaign.

In an interview, Clay said that Bell had not been told of the plan to copy and distribute the endorsement letter.

"I didn't mention this to the Bell campaign or anybody over there," Clay said.

Bell, who sponsored the city's hate crime law last year, which toughens penalties for anyone committing a crime based on race or sexual orientation, said he asked the state's attorney's office to look into the situation to determine whether laws have been broken.

Likewise, FBI officials said they are monitoring the situation.

Bell described Clay and Napata as "independent spirits." "I don't condone it, and we will get to the bottom of it," Bell said. "It goes against everything I stand for."

Baltimore County police said they were not investigating the matter further because it did not appear that laws were broken.

"What we have here is a bias incident but not a crime," said police spokesman Bill Toohey.

O'Malley expressed disappointment when he learned of the copying.

"It's really sad that other campaigns would resort to tactics like this," O'Malley said. "We're just going to keep moving, running a positive campaign, talking about issues and the future of the city."

Last month, an O'Malley volunteer reported confronting two Clay workers who were removing O'Malley signs in Little Italy. Paul Oliver, 33, said the men were riding in a red truck with "Robert Clay" written on the side.

"He said he was with the O'Malley campaign," Oliver said one of the men responded when asked about their activity. "I said `That's a lie.' "

The two men had eight O'Malley signs in the back of their truck, which also had four "Bell For Mayor" stickers on the back. O'Malley said Clay later apologized to him about the incident, saying it wouldn't happen again.

In 1994, Clay ran unsuccessfully for the General Assembly against House Appropriations Chairman Howard P. "Pete" Rawlings and sued Rawlings, accusing him of election fraud after campaign literature was circulated calling Clay an "indicted murderer."

Clay has been charged in two shootings, including a slaying. He was acquitted in one case, and charges in a second were dropped.

Rawlings, who endorsed O'Malley at the Aug. 5 rally, called the copying of the racist literature "despicable."

"They have sunk to a new political low," Rawlings said.

Bell and O'Malley are running in a tight race with former city Councilman and school board member Carl Stokes.

The Democratic primary is Sept. 14th.

Bell received the endorsement of the Vanguard Justice Society, a group of 600 African-American police officers, yesterday afternoon.

Pub Date: 9/04/99

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