Clergy decry racist fliers

Material was directed at O'Malley campaign

September 05, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

City ministers yesterday denied any knowledge of the creation and distribution of white supremacist literature a day after a fellow clergyman and supporter of mayoral candidate Lawrence A. Bell III acknowledged copying the material.

The fliers, mailed out 11 days ago by a group claiming to be the "Aryan Blood Brotherhood," recounted in graphic, racist terms an "endorsement" of white mayoral candidate Martin J. O'Malley, who denounced it.

The incident was the second flap in a month involving Bell supporters and O'Malley, who was the subject of another opposition mailing yesterday, this one by an anonymous group criticizing his work as a defense attorney.

The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, a group of more than 200 predominantly African-American churches in the city, condemned the racist material after one of its members, the Rev. Daki Napata, acknowledged he was involved in copying the fliers.

The Rev. Douglas I. Miles, president of the alliance, said Napata was not representing or speaking for the group.

"The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance disavows any knowledge of or association with the creation, copy or distribution of the letter," Miles said in a statement. "Daki Napata in no way represents or speaks for this alliance and was not authorized by any officer or group within the alliance to do anything in connection with the above mentioned letter."

Napata, a minister at Union Baptist Church, said he made copies of the one-page letter and handed them out in African-American neighborhoods as a way of prompting discussion about racism.

He acknowledged copying the material after Baltimore County police released an incident report on a call from a Catonsville office supply store on Thursday. The store had been asked to reproduce the material.

Also involved in the copying was Robert Clay, an excavator and supporter of Bell's who participated in the first incident involving O'Malley's campaign. In that confrontation, Bell supporters disrupted an O'Malley endorsement by state legislative leaders on Aug. 5.

Napata and Clay said they did not write the letter or mail the original to anyone. Bell, the City Council president, said that neither he nor his campaign had any knowledge of or association with the letter.

Meanwhile, a mailing to city voters' homes yesterday criticized O'Malley's work as a defense attorney. The pamphlet was from a group calling itself Citizens for Public Safety.

The pamphlet contained a line stating "Not authorized by a candidate." Representatives from the campaigns of Bell and Carl Stokes said they were unaware of any group by that name.

O'Malley, a Northeast Baltimore city councilman, has pledged to crack down on violence and close open-air drug markets by adopting the zero-tolerance crime strategy that has helped New York, Cleveland, New Orleans and other cities.

The latest flier contained a list of 33 criminal suspects O'Malley was said to have represented since 1991.

"Martin O'Malley might talk tough about fighting crime, but his record shows that he'd rather make a buck defending criminals than work to make our streets safer," the pamphlet stated.

The suspects listed in the pamphlet faced a total of 55 charges, 22 of which were related to drug possession. Defendants were found guilty of 60 percent of the charges, according to the flier. One client contributed $100 to O'Malley's campaign, the pamphlet said.

"When brought to court, O'Malley plea bargained away most of the offenses, sparing his clients time in jail for their crimes," the pamphlet stated.

O'Malley, who worked for two years as a state prosecutor, has said his criminal defense work has given him a better understanding of the city court system and what it takes to attack crime and improve the city's clogged court system.

A computer review by The Sun of 102 cases that O'Malley has handled since 1992 shows he has defended 21 drug suspects, six of whom were convicted. O'Malley also represented five suspects facing handgun charges; four of the charges were dropped. The drug and gun work amounted to about one-fourth of the O'Malley cases reviewed.

Yesterday, O'Malley expressed disappointment over the pamphlet.

"People who don't have any vision for the city are going to attack candidates anonymously and I think that's sad," O'Malley said while campaigning in NorthwestBaltimore. "But I think people are smart and we're going to continue running a positive campaign on issues."

Mary Styrt, a Northeast Baltimore resident who received the mailing yesterday, objected to it.

"I think it's regressive and shameful," Styrt said.

O'Malley, Bell and Stokes spent the afternoon yesterday meeting with city residents. Stokes traveled in a motorcade with members of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which has endorsed him. The group toured Towanda Avenue, the site of a shooting earlier in the week.

"We've had a whole bunch of shootings around here in the last few months," said Willie Rae, chair of the Park Heights ACORN group. "We keep telling the city that it's time for them to do something about the environment in our neighborhood, the vacant houses, the crime and the overgrown vacant land."

Also yesterday, the Vanguard Justice Society, a group of 700 African-American police officers, said it has not endorsed Bell for mayor -- as the Bell campaign claimed on Friday.

Bell campaign aides originally said the Vanguard group planned to endorse him at 4 p.m. Friday. But yesterday the aides said they were referring to another minority officers' group. The Vanguard organization has not endorsed a mayoral candidate.

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