Some blacks upset over proposal; Legislation aimed at curbing drug activity; No vote by council; Police would get added power to chase loiterers

THE BALTIMORE SUN

At last night's Annapolis city council meeting, several black residents took the podium to rail against what they called the oppression of people of color, criticize police officers for perceived racial slights and invoke the name of God to protest a proposed anti-loitering bill.

The council did not vote on the bill last night.

The bill, which Ward 5 Republican Alderman Herbert H. McMillan introduced in the spring, redefines "public space" to include private areas accessible to the public.

It would give police the power to force loiterers suspected of drug-related activity to leave privately owned areas such as supermarket parking lots and sidewalks in public housing communities or face arrest.

Mayor Dean L. Johnson said at the start of the meeting that there would be no vote on McMillan's bill because the alderman is crafting amendments, a handful of blacks were undeterred.

"There are people who don't want any amendments," said Robert Eades, an Annapolitan. "They don't want a bill. This is a ludicrous bill that's being aimed at African-Americans. I don't understand why the city council does not withdraw this bill and spend [their] time on doing more positive things in the community."

The American Civil Liberties Union, along with black leaders in the County, have said the bill would give police officers "carte blanche" to harass blacks hanging out on sidewalks.

During the summer, the ACLU and the county chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People organized protests and lobbied McMillan to withdraw the bill.

The Annapolis Neighborhood Block Watch, which is 50 percent black, has been among the bill's supporters. Supporters have said it would help rid their communities of drug trafficking.

McMillan and his council colleagues did not comment on the protesters' complaints last night, but the alderman emphasized again last week that the legislation was not about race.

An Annapolis man who identified himself as Amara stood up and threatened McMillan.

"I'm warning you in the name of God," the man said. "If this bill is passed, because of your lack of respect to us as black men it will come back down on your head."

Pub Date: 9/14/99

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