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Organizers call off parade plan

February 02, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The Rev. LeRoy J. Guillory said efforts to organize an African-American Heritage Parade for Presidents Day have been halted because of the possibility of violence by hate groups.

Guillory said at Tuesday's council meeting that a proposed Feb. 21 parade was canceled because he did not want to put the lives of participants or spectators in danger by holding it. Guillory said the decision not to proceed with the parade organization was a difficult one.

"It is being canceled due to the domestic terrorism and the threat of violence by the Ku Klux Klan in Hagerstown, Md.," he said.

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He did not rule out the possibility the event would be held later this year.

"President Bush stated we will not bow down to terrorism anywhere, and neither will we," he told the council.

The Hagerstown Police Department and the FBI are investigating five hate letters, on photocopies of outdated police department stationary, that were sent to, among others, John Lestitian, who is gay, and Andy Smith, who is black. Guillory said he, too, received a piece of hate mail and gave it directly to the FBI.

He declined Tuesday to say if there have been other hate mail or threats since Jan. 25, when he announced he received the letter.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said Guillory was "presumptuous" in believing the council would approve of an event that had not officially been presented to the council by his group before Tuesday.

Metzner said Guillory has not clarified the mission of his group, Ombudsman International Inc., has not said whether existing leaders of the black community in Hagerstown were to be involved with the parade or why his addresses in California and Washington, D.C., "are nothing more than mailboxes."

Although Metzner agreed with Guillory that there are some racists in the Hagerstown area and "a nut" writing letters, the councilman blasted him for his repeated remarks that Hagerstown is a racist community and for giving KKK involvement as the reason for canceling the parade.

"It only takes one person to write a letter, it takes a community to be racist. It's clear that he's not from this area and does not know a lot about this area," Metzner said.

He later added "there's a lot of reasons not to have that parade this year, the KKK is not one of them."

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