Washington (Jul. 16)
A spate of racial incidents, aimed mainly at Jews and Blacks in suburban Montgomery County, Md., has aroused County Executive Charles Gilchrist.
He has urged the prosecutor’s office to transmit the “unmistakable message that this kind of conduct will not be tolerated in Montgomery County.”
Gov. Harry Hughes of Maryland has also called on state prosecutors to crack down on “misguided hate-mongers who seem to emerge during times of economic stress and emotional strain.”
Until recently, many local officials were reluctant to address the issue publicly for fear that this sort” of ugly news” could engender even more trouble. But the list of racially motivated vandalism and provocation has grown in recent months to a point where they cannot be ignored.
SERIES OF INCIDENTS DESCRIBED
On June 25, five white teen-agers sprayed a caustic material from a fire-extinguisher on a group of Blacks in Wheaton. On June 7, a Rockville man found his car tarred and daubed with anti-Semitic graffiti. Less than two weeks earlier, anti-Semitic slogans were written on the door of a Rockville school and a day earlier a swastika was painted on the sidewalk in front of a local synagogue.
Leaflets urging youngsters to join the “Klan Youth Corps” have been distributed openly at county schools. In all, 39 incidents of cross-burning, harassment, vandalism and assaults have been reported to the police during the first six months of this year compared to fewer than 25 during all of last year and less than a dozen the year before. According to Gilchrist, “These are not pranks … These are savage assaults on the sensibility of our fellow citizens.”
Police report that the pattern of racial incidents varies from one locale to another. In Wheaton it is usually whites against Blacks; in Silver Spring, Blacks against Hispanics and in Rockville and Potomac, Jews are the principal targets. Many of the incidents seem to be the work of teenagers, police say.
In addition to vigorous prosecution of the perpetrators, when caught, local officials and the media suggest that the county schools initiate discussions aimed at countering bigotry while at the same time carefully monitoring the activities of outsiders on school grounds.