Baltimore, MD

NAACP makes leap to big-money political activism

August 04, 2000
The NAACP has established a multimillion-dollar fund to finance a wide range of voter education and mobilization efforts, including issue advertising, direct-mail campaigns and telephone banks, in an unprecedented attempt to make its voice heard in the presidential election.
     The initiative marks an abrupt departure from past practice for the Baltimore-based civil rights organization, which has long been a vocal critic of what it calls the corrupting influence of big money on the political process. While the NAACP has run grass-roots voter registration and education efforts for much of its 91-year history, the new effort stands apart because of its planned scope and funding.
     NAACP officials have said the fund has raised about $7 million, much of it from one anonymous donor. The amount, while typical of many organizations, is extraordinary for the NAACP, which has an annual operating budget of about $19 million and typically confines its political efforts to voter registration and hand-to-hand voter education efforts. 

Sexual harassment award upheld in Maryland

July 25, 2000
Maryland's highest court has found that a Prince George's County man who allegedly promised a co-worker job promotions in exchange for sex was, in essence, soliciting prostitution and violating state law when he fired her for refusing his advances.
    The Court of Appeals decision upholds a $22,240 judgment for the victim and provides an alternative for those who are too slow or too impatient to travel the traditional legal routes when filing a workplace discrimination complaint.
    "Many people are not interested in pursuing [a federal discrimination claim] because they believe that the process is so lengthy and so burdensome that the remedy becomes useless," said Matt P. Lavine, the Silver Spring lawyer who argued the case against Insignia Residential Corp., a subsidiary of a New York property management firm that has since been bought by a Denver-based company.
    "This means people can take their case directly to court." 

Justice confirms probe of Orioles

July 13, 2000
The Justice Department is investigating the hiring practices of the Baltimore Orioles, who have been accused by Sen. Jesse Helms and a conservative group of refusing to sign Cuban defectors, a department spokeswoman said Thursday. 
     Department of Justice spokeswoman Kara Peterman confirmed that
Assistant Attorney General Robert Raben sent a letter last week to Helms which says the department has "opened an independent investigation of the Baltimore Orioles to determine whether the alleged player hiring policies and practices violate the prohibition against citizenship status discrimination." 

Bush acknowledges gulf between blacks, GOP

July 10, 2000
George W. Bush came before the nation's largest civil rights organization today to acknowledge the breach of trust between his party and African Americans and vowed to find "common ground" on issues that have long divided them.
      Declaring that "strong civil rights enforcement will be a cornerstone of my administration," the Republican presidential candidate told the NAACP annual convention that he recognizes racism still exists and at one point criticized his own party for neglecting the struggles of black Americans.
      Bush's presence here--the last two Republican presidential nominees declined the NAACP's invitations--and his message were intended to show that his compassionate conservatism is more than rhetoric and that he intends to aggressively pursue the votes of minorities.

Group protests Boy Scouts in Baltimore

July 06, 2000
Gay rights advocates rallied today at the local headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America, protesting the organization's policy against gay members and Scout leaders and promising a national day of protest later this summer.
     "I'm sending my Eagle award badge back to Boy Scout headquarters in Irving, Texas. I can't keep it under these false pretenses," said the Rev. Kenneth T. Smith, an Eagle Scout and Rockville minister, who joined about 65 people in front of the one-story brick headquarters. Many protesters held placards with slogans such as "Bigoted Scouts of America" and "Stop Teaching Hate."
     Organizers said the rally, the first in the country after last week's Supreme Court decision affirming the Boy Scout policy, prefaces a national day of protest on August 21. 

FHA testing program to help unfair lending victims

May 19, 2000
Troubled by property flipping in Baltimore and a rising foreclosure rate, the Federal Housing Administration plans to unveil a plan today that could save hundreds of Baltimoreans tens of thousands of dollars each on their mortgages.
      The move is part of a package of steps the agency plans to enact to help the victims of flipping and cut down on its losses when it pays off its insured mortgages once borrowers default.
      Among other things, the FHA will demand that lenders reduce inflated loans to the actual value of the house.
      If the lenders refuse, the agency will pay off the loan, take title to the house and sell it back to the occupant at the actual market value, two sources said.
      Then, the agency will pursue the lender in the courts to recover the difference between the inflated loan and the new loan.
      Baltimore will be the testing ground for this approach, which will be adopted nationally if it works here, said an FHA official who declined to be named.

NAACP may expand S.C. boycott

May 16, 2000
NAACP President Kweisi Mfume threatened Tuesday to expand the civil rights group's tourism
boycott of South Carolina if that state's lawmakers approve a proposal to move the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse dome to a nearby memorial.
     Displaying the flag at the memorial, honoring Confederate soldiers, is unacceptable because of the monument's prominence on the Statehouse grounds, Mfume said.
     ``Where you once had to strain to see a flag 300 feet in the air, it would now be 30 feet in the air, larger, with lights and a fence,'' he said.
     Legislation that would remove from the flag from dome and raise it beside the memorial was approved Thursday by the House and returned to the Senate. 

$4.1 million awarded in police civil rights case

April 05, 2000
A federal civil jury awarded a Maryland man $4.1 million after finding three county police officers violated his civil rights by beating him so badly that he lost his right eye and the use of his left hand.
    Freddie McCollum Jr. was awarded more than $3.6 million to compensate him for his injuries, pain and lost income. The jury also awarded $400,000 in punitive damages against Prince George's County and the officers.
    McCollum said he was pleased the verdict, but that his ``life compared to how it was before the incident is totally turned around.'' 

Equal Rights Center seeks class action status in suit against K-B Toys

March 06, 2000
A civil rights group that has accused K-B Toys of discriminating against black customers is seeking class-action status for its federal lawsuit against the retailer.
    The Washington-based Equal Rights Center filed to amend the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md.
    The original lawsuit, filed in December, alleged that several Washington- and Baltimore-area K-B stores serving primarily black customers did not accept personal checks, unlike stores that primarily serve white customers.
    Two black customers and The Equal Rights Center were named as plaintiffs in the original suit. The amended lawsuit added three black plaintiffs and requested class-action status. 

EBay stops sale of racist web addresses

December 15, 1999
An online auction seeking $1 million for a Web address containing a racial slur against blacks has been stopped by Internet auctioneer eBay.
    The company halted the auction Tuesday, after being informed of its existence by The Washington Post.
    "We had serious questions about the language being used," Kevin Pursglove, a spokesman for San Jose, Calif.-based eBay, told the newspaper.

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