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Lew Metzner shouldn't be the only one speaking out

February 03, 2005

The Rev. LeRoy Guillory on Tuesday told the Hagerstown City Council that he called off his plans for an African-American heritage parade because of "domestic terrorism and the threat of violence by the Ku Klux Klan in Hagerstown, Md."

That's ridiculous. When the Klan held its own parade in Sharpsburg in August, it couldn't muster more than a dozen marchers. Other than an occasional scuffle between black and white students at some area high schools, we're unaware of any local racial violence

But in several statements, some carried on the city's cable channel, Guillory has painted the city as a hotbed of bigotry and intolerance.

So far, only City Councilman Lewis Metzner has called him on it. He shouldn't be the only one. Not only should elected officials speak out, but so should members of the business community and the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

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In the days before City Council meetings were televised, the city's elected leaders could afford to let the occasional oddball rant and rave for five minutes, then resume work on more important matters.

Now, anyone who has cable TV can see what goes on in the council's chamber. Like it or not, that means the city's elected officials have to refute any lies told there.

Hagerstown is not the racist city Guillory has portrayed.

Is there racism here? Sure, just as there is in any Maryland city. But there is no evidence to suggest that it's any worse here than in, for example, Prince George's or Montgomery counties.

If local officials need a model for the kind of attitude they need to adopt, they don't need to look far to find one.

In November, after Martinsburg (W.Va.) City Councilman Frank Idoni was arrested and charged with battery, Mayor George Karos and that city's council members asked him to resign.

It was not the first time Idoni had had problems. A month earlier, 175 residents signed a petition asking for his ouster after he began patrolling his neighborhood with a baseball bat and ordering people to behave.

"This council and city cannot continue to tolerate these actions, which are not only a negative reflection on our city locally, but also statewide," Karos said.

That is the kind of strong statement we need from our city's leaders, both the elected ones and those in the private sector.

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