Owens, black groups affirm resolve to stop hate crimes

NAACP leader says communication puts effort on `right track'

Anne Arundel

September 18, 2001|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

The president of the Anne Arundel County chapter of the NAACP heralded a new era of open communications between county officials and African-American communities after meeting yesterday with County Executive Janet S. Owens.

"I always felt that [county officials] had that [anti-hate crimes] posture," said Gerald G. Stansbury, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "But there lacked communication between the county and the community. I think we'll stay focused now. I think we're on the right track."

Those who attended the meeting, which was not open to the public, said it was particularly important to talk about hate crimes against minority groups because some Arab-Americans have faced harassment or violence in the wake of terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon.

"Whether hate crimes are directed at Arab-Americans, African-Americans or whites, as a society we cannot tolerate any acts of violence directed against people merely because of the color of their skin, religion, sexual orientation or nationality," Stansbury said in a written statement released yesterday.

"The recent [attacks] in New York and Washington shows us that unless we get a handle on this problem, hate and violence will escalate," he added.

Series of hate crimes

The NAACP and other African-American organizations, including United Black Clergy, are concerned about a series of hate crimes in the county.

Last week, racist and anti-Semitic graffiti were reported found in two houses under construction in Churchton.

In the past several weeks, the Crofton house and car of a black minister were spray-painted with expletives, threats and racial slurs; a Lothian church was looted and desecrated with satanic and racist epithets; and the letters "KKK" were spray-painted on the garage door of an Edgewater house about to be sold to a black family.

The couple who were to buy the house, Frank and Tina Marie Head of Laurel, attended the meeting with Owens and have volunteered to organize an outreach and education program they hope will stem the recent rise in hate crimes. They want to call the event National Hate Hate Crimes Day.

After the meeting, which lasted about an hour and a half and was held in a conference room in Owens' offices in Annapolis, Stansbury said he was confident that the county and community groups could work together to bring an end to hate crimes.

Task force organized

He said that Owens has organized a task force that will meet with officials from the U.S. Department of Justice on Oct. 5 to discuss ways to combat and prosecute hate crimes, and that she had recently reactivated the county's Fair Housing Commission.

Owens was not available for comment after the meeting.

None of the recent race-related crimes in the county, which police do not believe to be related, has been solved.

"Right now, we don't have enough information to charge anyone with the crimes," said county police spokesman Lt. Joseph E. Jordan. "We're still doing whatever we can to find out who did it. We're still looking for that lead to break the case."

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