Date: Sat, 31 Jan 1998 09:47:38 -0500
Sender: The African Global Experience <AGE-L@UGA.CC.UGA.EDU>
From: Marpessa Kupendua <nattyreb@IX.NETCOM.COM>
Subject: !*Black firefighters targets of racist threats
>Date: Thu, 29 Jan 1998 23:54:39 -0600
>From: Michael Novick <email@example.com>
>Subject: Black firefighters targets of racist threats
Feds probe threats against black firefighters. 'We are not going to be divided,' union says of hate mail
By Judy DeHaven and David G. Grant, The Detroit News,
29 January 1998
DETROIT--Federal authorities are taking seriously anonymous hate
letters that threaten the lives of black Detroit firefighters and call for
whites to reclaim the fire department "by any means necessary."
The letters, signed by a group calling itself the "White Fire Fighters
Association," were sent to Mayor Dennis Archer, Detroit Fire Chief Raymond
George and the Phoenix, an organization of African-American firefighters.
The letters, which include racial slurs and death threats, were turned
over to the FBI in November, Police Chief Isaiah McKinnon said.
"This is definitely being investigated," McKinnon said Wednesday.
FBI spokeswoman Dawn Moritz would not comment, except to say her agency
is aware of the letters.
The letters allude to the legacy of white "fathers and grandfathers
(who) built this fire department" and accuse department heads of coddling
blacks and punishing whites.
"It amazes us that you do not punish those black bNNN so-called
firefighters as you do us," stated a letter sent to the fire chief. "We
will regain control of what is rightfully ours. Take it all back even if it
means that we have to eliminate you in the process."
City attorney Terri Renshaw said the letters are "not something we took
lightly. We asked the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office to look into it,
and we all agreed the jurisdiction was best left with them."
Another letter, sent to Archer and the Phoenix, stated that a
predominantly white engine house on East Grand Boulevard "is spotless
inside and out," and an Engine House on Greenfield staffed by African
Americans is described as looking like a "ghetto."
The letter sent to Archer outlined four demands:
That the next fire chief be white.
An end to "racial balance."
For every member of the White Fire Fighters Association harassed over
residency, the group threatened to take action against African Americans
who live outside the city.
The group threatened "contemptuous young blacks who dishonor our white
officers...by threats or violence or sully their record."
"The next nNN- that places his hand on one of ours will die," the
letter reads. "We place you on notice as to our intentions and they will be
realized by any means necessary."
City and fire officials were quick to downplay division in the
1,800-member fire department, even though 15 white officers recently filed
a reverse discrimination lawsuit against the department for promoting a
black firefighter to chief.
Phoenix President Fred Wheeler said the department does not have any
more racial problems than any other group.
"I am not even insinuating those letters have anything to do with that
(lawsuit)," Wheeler said. "I gave them no credence or credibility. There
are black disgruntled workers, just as there are white disgruntled workers.
There's always an undercurrent of racism, just like there is in American
Mark Knowles, president of the Detroit Firefighters Association, said
the letters will not divide the firefighters.
"We decided as a membership, that whoever this sicko is--if they're a
fireman or not a fireman, if they're an ex-employee or management--we are
not going to be divided," Knowles said.
James Edwards, 28, an African American firefighter at a ladder station
on Joy Road at Southfield, said you can't ignore the threats, but they
aren't a serious concern for him.
"When the bells rings, people do what they need to do to get the job
done," Edwards said. "When you go in, you don't care what color the person
is, you just want the best."
Lt. Robert Dombrowski, who is white, said race relations are better now
than in any of his 25 years with the department.
"Things here are pretty good. We live together and we eat together," he
Dombrowski does not think a firefighter wrote the letter.
"The letter looked silly and ridiculous like it was written by someone
out of Alabama in the 1950s," Dombrowski said. "Whoever is doing it is
doing it to try and cause trouble and ruin our morale."
Detroit News Staff Writers Kristin Storey and Lama Bakri contributed to
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