A small group of men dressed in Ku Klux Klan-style robes set fire to a six-foot wooden cross on the lawn of a black church in Largo last night, Prince George's County fire officals said.
A man claiming to represent a local Ku Klus Klan chapter called a radio station and claimed responsiblity for the incident.
"I know of no reason for the burning," said the Rev. Lewis Shockley, pastor of the Ridgely Zion United Methodist Church, at 8800 Central Ave. in Largo. "We received no threats . . . It's kind of shocking. Nothing like this has happened around here before that I remember."
Officals said they have no suspects in the case, but a man purporting to be "the second in command of the Maryland chapter of the Ku Klux Klan" called WASH-AM radio newscaster Dick Uliano shortly after the 7:15 p.m. incident and claimed responsibility.
"They're running through the woods in white robes . . . they're there now," the man told Uliano. "We're letting the [blacks] know we're not going to be stepped on any more . . . there will be 20 more cross burnings before the summer."
The church, a brick, wood and stone structure across from Hampton Mall, was built in the early 1800's by the prominent black Ridgely family in Prince George's County at the time. It originally housed a school for black children.
"It's a mixed emotion kind of thing," said Shockley. "Especially since we are preparing to merge Ridgely with Seat Pleasant United Methodist Church," an all-white church on Addison Road in Seat Pleasant.
"There's a 99 percent chance that the merger had nothing to do with it though," Shockley said.