THE REGION

Brown Decision Feted at Constitution Hall

Legal pioneers, entertainers and titans of the civil rights struggle packed Constitution Hall last night to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

The event, which was sponsored by Howard University, the NAACP and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, attracted entertainer Bill Cosby and actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, among more than 3,000 other attendees. The event also honored dozens of black luminaries, including former Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder.

Oliver W. Hill, 97, a lawyer associated with the Brown case, said in an interview that from the moment he and many of his classmates entered law school, they were consumed with fighting for integration. He graduated from Howard University's law school in 1933, along with Thurgood Marshall.

But Wilder said little has been accomplished in the civil rights arena in recent decades. "Unfortunately, there has not been the urgency associated with the need to continue what was started with Brown,'' he said in an interview. He said the civil rights movement is no longer vigilant about challenging racial discrimination.

Girl's Finger Injured in Metro Escalator

A 9-year-old girl from North Carolina was taken to the hospital yesterday after her right hand became stuck in the handrail of an escalator at the Smithsonian Metro station, Metro officials said.

The girl was taken to Children's Hospital, where she received eight stitches to close a cut on her right index finger, Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said. She was released from the hospital yesterday afternoon.

The escalator, at the Mall entrance to the station, was taken out of service while mechanics inspected it, Farbstein said.

Holiday Parking Rules Eased for Disabled

D.C. Transportation Department officials announced yesterday that the city will grant special parking privileges over the extended Memorial Day weekend to out-of-town drivers with valid parking permits for the physically disabled.

Such permits allow people with physical disabilities to park at designated handicapped parking spaces. But in addition, the District will allow such qualified vehicles from every state and jurisdiction to park at any time-limited spaces, such as residential permit parking zones or meters, for twice the posted limit and for free. The privilege applies only where parking is permitted. Parking will still be banned on rush-hour lanes, officials said.

The special rules will be in effect from next Tuesday through June 2 and are the result of emergency legislation passed by the D.C. Council to accommodate the large number of veterans, many with physical disabilities, who will visit the District for the formal dedication of the National World War II Memorial.

Workshops on Terrorism, News Media Set

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Academies will host 10 workshops on terrorism and the role of the news media, starting in July. The workshops are modeled after a program developed by the Greater Washington Board of Trade's Potomac Conference.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said the workshops will help the department provide complex but potentially lifesaving information in a crisis to journalists and state and local officials.

The sessions will begin in Chicago in July and continue over the next 12 months in Portland, Ore., Kansas City, Mo., Philadelphia, Miami, Austin, Atlanta, San Francisco, Denver and Boston.

THE DISTRICT

Window Cleaner Dangles 60 Feet Up

A window washer working at the Rayburn House Office Building was trapped about 60 feet off the ground yesterday afternoon when the line holding him snapped, prompting a rescue by D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services crews.

Spokesman Alan Etter said the man was caught by a safety device, which then immobilized him. The department's high-angle rescue team brought him to safety about a half-hour after the 1:30 p.m. incident. The man was not injured.

MARYLAND

Lightning Blamed for Montgomery Fire

A lightning strike was blamed for a fire last night that caused $400,000 of damage to a home in the Montgomery Village area, authorities said. The couple who live in the home were not there at the time.

The fire broke out about 9:20 p.m. in the 9700 block of Digging Road after lightning struck a tree next to the home, sparking a fire that spread to the roof, said Pete Piringer, a spokesman for the Montgomery County fire department. It took about 65 firefighters a half-hour to extinguish the blaze.

3 Suspicious Fires at Pr. George's Schools

Fire officials in Prince George's County said yesterday they were investigating three fires set over the weekend at two county high schools. No suspects have emerged, and officials said it remains unclear whether the blazes are connected.

Mark Brady, spokesman for the county fire department, said two fires were started late Friday at Charles Herbert Flowers High School in the 1000 block of Ardwick Ardmore Road in Springdale. One was set in a temporary classroom, the other in a sports equipment storage area. Damage totaled $50,000, he said.

Two days later, about 9:45 p.m. Sunday, a fire was set in a first-floor computer lab at Potomac High School in the 5000 block of Boydell Avenue in Oxon Hill, causing $500 to $1,000 damage, Brady said.

Death After Traffic Stop Ruled a Suicide

The Maryland state medical examiner's office has ruled that a motorist who was fatally shot last Tuesday after wounding a police officer during a traffic stop in the Gaithersburg area died of a self-inflicted wound to the head, authorities said yesterday.

The incident happened shortly before 11 p.m. when a Montgomery County police officer pulled over Dale F. Connolly, 51, of New Market. Connolly emerged from his 1982 Mercedes and opened fire, eventually striking a backup officer in the chest area of his bulletproof vest, police spokesman Capt. John Fitzgerald said. The bullet did not penetrate the vest.

Officers returned fire, but Connolly vanished into a grassy area where he was found about 55 minutes later with a gunshot wound to the head. A .41-caliber Smith & Wesson was recovered at the scene, Fitzgerald said.

"Here we go again."

-- Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, reacting to the 13-inch northern snakehead pulled out of the Potomac River over the weekend. -- Page B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Petula Dvorak, Hamil R. Harris, Spencer S. Hsu, Lyndsey Layton, Allan Lengel, Sylvia Moreno and Jamie Stockwell and the Associated Press.