Stratford antiracism rally is a ‘go’
Neal McNamara, Register Correspondent
STRATFORD — Community groups will proceed with an antiracism rally at noon today in spite of the threatened presence of hate groups, but police will be out in force, including to sweep the area around Town Hall for weapons and other threats.
Town officials had canceled the rally Thursday after self-proclaimed white supremacists vowed to appear.
But the Rev. Johnny Gamble, who is a pastor at the Friendship Baptist Church, and members of various community groups, obtained permission from the Police Department late Thursday to hold the rally.
Originally organized by Councilman Alvin O’Neal, D-2, in response to alleged police brutality issues in town, the rally was supposed to peacefully demonstrate concerns of residents and unite a town split over issues of race.
But Tuesday, several area alleged hate groups littered residents’ lawns with racist pamphlets, letting their intentions to show up at the rally be known. And as late as Friday, according to police Capt. Harvey Maxwell, the groups had again littered the town with more pamphlets.
On Thursday, in a joint press conference with O’Neal and Police Chief Michael Imbro, Mayor John R. Miron canceled the rally, saying that the hate groups would overshadow the rally’s intent to bring peace and understanding to the community.
Miron had maintained in canceling the event that the hate groups would get all the media attention, thus overshadowing the rally’s peaceful message.
"When we look at this rally ... its intention was supposed to be to unite. Our message will get diluted," Miron said Thursday.
Miron said Friday that he would attend the rally; O’Neal’s attorney, Charles Kurmey, declined to comment whether O’Neal would be there.
Shortly after the end of the press conference Thursday, Gamble and several other church leaders get permission to proceed with the rally. According to the town clerk’s office, all that’s needed to hold a rally is to give 48 hours notice to the Police Department.
Maxwell said that a police force stretched thin by vacation season is gearing up to keep the rally safe. Maxwell could not give specifics in terms of deployment or method, but said that the police are making "preparations."
Police also are making sure the area where the rally will take place around Town Hall is secure, sweeping for weapons and graffiti, or anything else that may disturb the peace of the rally, he said.
"We don’t know how many people will attend the rally. We’re not even sure the people holding the rally know," said Maxwell.
Maxwell said the duty of police at the rally would be to protect people there.
Scott X. Esdaile, president of the Connecticut chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is scheduled to speak at the rally.
Self-proclaimed white supremacists hailing from groups calling themselves the White Wolves, Northeast White Pride and the Connecticut State Skinheads also have said they plan to attend.
O’Neal and residents of Stratford and Bridgeport had originally set up the rally in response to an incident in the town’s South End March 21.
According to O’Neal, police Officer David Gugliotti used excessive force in arresting 15-year-old Titasheen Mitchell. O’Neal tried to intervene and also was arrested.
Gugliotti was investigated by the Internal Affairs division of his department and was later cleared of wrongdoing. The town, at Miron’s behest, has streamlined the system for residents who make complaints against police. Residents, for instance, can now fill out a complaint form online.
©New Haven Register 2006