At a meeting that evoked memories of civil rights rallies in the 1960s, about 50 Prince George's County residents heard speakers last night urge county officials to speak out against incidents of racial violence.
"A climate of racial violence has been created in the county that has led to an increase in activities like cross burning," declared Sylvester Vaughns, president of the county NAACP. "The county government hasn't said it won't tolerate such activity. That's the kind of talk we've got hear.
The meeting, called by a coalition of groups, demonstrated rising concern in Washington's Maryland suburbs over cross-burnings and similar incidents. A week ago, the Commission held a similar meeting to discuss how to stop such incidents.
Vaughns said 24 racially motivated incidents have occurred in the county in the last two years, eight within the last month.
In March, county police arrested a University of Maryland student who they said as an "exalted cyclops" of the Ku Klux Klan and charged him with six cross-burnings and with making bomb threats and manufacturing pipe bombs.
One of the cross-burning incidents with which Aitcheson is charged occurred on the lawn of the home of phillip and Barbara Butler in College Park. Butler told last night's meeting his family and endured a series of racial incidents since they moved from Washington to College Park in June, 1976.
Butler said a "very professional-looking" three-foot-by-two-foot cross was burned on his lawn around mid-night January 30. "We're not fearfful," he said, "but we always wonder when we come home whether we'll have a house." Butler said his family isn't moving.
Several others spoke of racially motivated incidents, and some, such as Rabbi Robert Saks of B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation, a Jewish student organization at the University of Maryland, recounted several similar acts of harassment against the organization's building during the fall.
The meeting was held in a meeting room in the First Baptist Church of Glenarden. It was prefaced by a folk singing trio that, accompanied by guitar and harmonica, sang several protest songs.