Five Md. Cases of Racist Graffiti Linked

Black Churches, Schools Vandalized

Washington Post/January 13, 2006
By Cameron W. Barr

Racist graffiti painted on five schools and churches in Montgomery County this week appear to be the result of an organized effort, Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said yesterday at a news conference called by religious leaders and elected officials to denounce the acts.

Manger said the graffiti discovered Tuesday at Ridgeview Middle School and Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg included the initials "W.A.R.," which police believe stands for White Aryan Resistance, a decades-old California-based group that espouses "white separatism."

In Boyds, a dozen community leaders assembled at St. Mark's United Methodist Church, a predominantly African American church where a black swastika was painted on the white front door sometime Monday night or Tuesday, to say such acts were intolerable. "We as good people will not be silent," said County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D). "We will not stand idly by while some hatemongers try to divide our community."

The Rev. Timothy Warner, the pastor of St. Mark's, said that Montgomery had a history of being two counties -- "one largely black, one largely white; one largely wealthy, and one largely not so wealthy" -- and that it fell to community leaders to erase such divisions.

Several speakers echoed this theme, but the county executive said he was proud of the county's inclusiveness. "Are we perfect? No," said Duncan, who is running for governor. "But we are working very hard at it."

Duncan and others noted that Monday is a holiday that celebrates the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. County Council President George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) praised King's injunction to greet those who hate with love, including the perpetrators of this week's graffiti. "We will love them," Leventhal said. "But we will also investigate them. And if we catch them, we will arrest them, and if they are guilty, we will punish them."

Montgomery State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler, who did not attend the news conference but sent a representative, said the perpetrators could be prosecuted for destruction of property and defacing religious buildings. Prosecutors also could seek to prove that the acts constitute a hate crime, which could add a three-year "sentence enhancement," he said.

In addition to the graffiti at St. Mark's and the two public schools, the perpetrators also struck Seneca Community Church in Germantown, whose congregation is also predominantly African American, and the historic Boyds Negro School.

Police have no earlier record of W.A.R. followers operating in Montgomery, said David R. Baker, the police department's hate crimes coordinator.

In 1990, a civil jury in Oregon found W.A.R. director Tom Metzger and his son John liable for inciting the 1988 beating death of an Ethiopian immigrant and awarded $12.5 million in damages. In recent years, Metzger has encouraged followers to operate as secretive "lone wolves," and Manger said this week's graffiti incidents are "just the type of tactic that this group uses."

In May 2001, white supremacist pamphlets that included favorable mentions of Metzger were found in an apartment complex in the Prince William County community of Dale City.

Manger said police have not discovered evidence of a connection between this week's vandalism and three earlier incidents, two last month and one this month, in which publicly displayed menorahs were vandalized, but he said investigators were looking into the possibility.

The six hate incidents in the county this year represent a spike for Montgomery, Manger said. Police recorded 47 hate crimes and incidents in 2005 and 40 in 2004. In previous years, the average was about 60.

Manger encouraged those with information to call the department's Crime Solver line at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). The Hate Crime Tipster Fund has offered a cash reward.

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