Threats sent to blacks at UM

State police, FBI investigating incident at College Park

November 17, 1999|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

Four "extremely crude and dangerous" notes threatening violence against African-Americans were delivered through campus mail at the University of Maryland, College Park about noon yesterday, school officials said.

"They threatened specific bodily harm and used [nigger] and variations of it," said George Cathcart, a school spokesman. "There were individuals named and specific threats of extremely violent force."

The letters were sent to Juliana A. Njoku, president of the Student Government Association; Camille Adams, secretary for the Black Student Union and an organizer of rallies against police brutality; the Black Student Union and the school's Department of African-American Studies, according to Njoku and UM officials.

The unsigned notes -- delivered on red paper and apparently printed on a computer -- were written in verse and included the phrase: "The sweep will begin in College Park on judgment day."

None of the notes included handwriting.

According to Njoku, the poem received by Adams was accompanied by a vicious, rambling note that specifically threatened Njoku, Adams, a black student activist named Mazi Belcher and Rahman Culver, editor in chief of Black Explosion, a campus newspaper.

Njoku, a 22-year-old native of Nigeria who said she was the first black student government president in College Park history, said that Culver had been receiving threatening, anonymous e-mails in recent weeks.

Adams, she said, had organized peaceful marches on campus in April to protest rough treatment of black males on campus by university police, and in and around College Park by Prince George's County police.

The note delivered to the Black Student Union declared that Adams would be "destroyed" for such work.

"No marches, no rallies and no sit-ins will prevent the coming of judgment day," the note said, according to Njoku.

"We're making no assumptions as to who might have sent them," said Cathcart, adding that the notes did not mention weapons and that no other ethnic group was mentioned.

Said Njoku: "I'm hoping something will come from the fingerprint reports."

Campus police, state police and the FBI are investigating the incident.

After the threats were discovered, university President C. D. "Dan" Mote Jr. gathered school police Chief Ken Krouse and other officials in his office to discuss ways of dealing with the problem.

The individuals and groups who received the threats will receive police protection, Cathcart said.

In addition to bringing federal agents into the investigation, the school has planned an "anti-hate" rally at 3: 30 p.m. today outside the university student union.

Njoku is scheduled to speak at the rally.

"You often have people expressing a lack of tolerance for other groups of all kinds, but nobody can remember anything like this happening here," Cathcart said. "It seems that there's a great deal of racial discord throughout society right now. There are people who want to stir up racial discord, and we're victims of it."

Last night, Mote offered $1,000 of his money as reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people behind the notes.

"This is a sad moment in the life of this great university," the president said in a prepared statement. "Criminal threats of violence against individuals or groups are abhorrent to me personally and to all members of this university community."

Njoku said, "This is hard facts. I'll remember this for the rest of my life."

Staff writer Richard Irwin contributed to this article.

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