Residents seek ways to combat hate fliers

In meeting, city officials say little can be done legally to stop problem

Annapolis

November 26, 2003|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Clarification

An article in yesterday's editions may have implied that a small crowd turned out for a meeting in Annapolis to discuss hate literature. About 100 people attended and more than 20 spoke.

More than 20 Annapolis area residents met with city officials last night to see what could be done to keep hate literature from being distributed in their communities.

Residents of the Admiral Heights and Homewood neighborhoods in the northern part of the city received racist and anti-Semitic fliers in their driveways in early September.

Most residents who spoke at a meeting of the city's Human Relations Committee last night said they did not feel personally threatened by the fliers but wanted to hear what officials recommend.

"Our youth pick it up, and we need to do something so our youth don't get affected by it," said Hannah Chambers, a Parole resident.

City officials said they could do little legally to stop such fliers from being left on driveways but encouraged residents to band together as a show of solidarity.

Officials believe that the materials were produced and distributed by the National Alliance, a West Virginia-based organization that is the country's largest neo-Nazi group.

The group's founder wrote a book that depicted a war between the races and might have inspired the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

The leaflets are being investigated by the human relations panel, a volunteer committee that does not have legislative powers.

At last night's meeting, residents asked if they could take legal action against racist groups.

"There is little you, as homeowners, can do legally," Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said.

City police had collected some of the literature as part of an investigation but decided they could not stop the group's actions because the fliers did not advocate violence or action against any particular group.

Someone may distribute literature in a driveway as long as he or she does not trespass.

"We could only tell people to throw them away," Officer Hal Dalton, a department spokesman, said yesterday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland is aware of the fliers and cautioned that it is nearly impossible to limit such actions, according to Stacey Mink, a spokeswoman for the ACLU.

A source of pain

Committee Chairman Michael J. Keller said racist groups and leaflets can cause pain to residents.

"There are people who physically suffer when they receive this type of literature," he said.

Keller also said residents can work to combat racist groups by speaking out.

"Silence is really a wrong strategy," he said.

Sharing concerns

Moyer urged residents to discuss their concerns with neighbors and city officials to find peaceful solutions.

In 1998, when the Klu Klux Klan demonstrated in Annapolis, the city responded by organizing a vigil at a local church.

Said resident Linda Greenberg, "We live with hate every day, but that doesn't mean we have to accept it."

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