U.S. Racism Watch: Feds investigate ‘Redneck Day’ at Ariz. school

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Tea Party Protest (AP Photo/File)

 

PHOENIX (AP) — The U.S. Department of Education plans to investigate a controversial “Redneck Day” celebration two months ago at an Arizona high school.

One Queen Creek High student wore a Confederate flag during the May 1 event. Civil rights activists say that created a racially hostile environment.

The Rev. Jarrett Maupin says the DOE will “determine the remedy, including moderating conversations between school administrators and civil rights community leaders to shape new policy and racism prevention measures.”

The DOE’s Office for Civil Rights says “the display of the Confederate flag concerns rights protected by the First Amendment.”

But it also says in a letter that the investigation’s scope “will be limited to whether a racially hostile environment was created due to language and actions that were not protected by the First Amendment.”

 

Comedian told racist jokes at law enforcement show

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sheriff Lee Baca was among hundreds of uniformed officers who were told a string of racist and raunchy jokes by a comedian hired to entertain at a law enforcement event this week.

The county’s top sheriff even thanked comedian Edwin San Juan after his performance and gave him a plaque at Wednesday’s Sheriff’s Day Luncheon, The Los Angeles Times reported (http://lat.ms/15iZ2kH).

Spokesman Steve Whitmore said officials are figuring out how the comedian was vetted to implement safeguards to prevent such an incident from happening again.

“It’s a lesson learned,” Whitmore said. “It’s not gonna happen again.”

The luncheon wasn’t an official Sheriff’s Department event.

San Juan told KABC-TV he poked fun at all the different races at the event equally.

“I gazed (into) the crowd and it was all different races so I just poked fun of everybody equally, you know what I mean? How I’d normally do it. And as soon as I addressed it, the tension kind of dropped and I felt it was kind of cool and smooth,” said San Juan, adding that several people from the audience congratulated him after the performance.

“It’s a comedy show, they hired me for that, know what I mean? But I don’t think in any way the stuff that I said reflects the Sheriff’s Department. It’s separate things, they booked me for entertainment,” San Juan said.

 

Seattle car arson may be hate crime

SEATTLE (AP) — The Seattle Fire Department says a car fire about 1 a.m. Wednesday in the Capitol Hill neighborhood was arson.

Police say racist graffiti was spray painted on the car and the arson is being investigated as a hate crime.

The 1970 Cadillac DeVille appears to be a total loss.

 

Man unfurls rebel flag at Ohio school meeting

SPRINGBORO, Ohio (AP) — A southwest Ohio man who unfurled a Confederate battle flag at a school board meeting says he was trying to make a point about history. Others say his move was offensive.

Sonny Thomas insists his message was misinterpreted, The Cincinnati Enquirer (http://cin.ci/10Xs8Fo ) reported. He showed the flag at a recent Springboro board of education meeting in response to the board’s backing off an earlier plan to offer a constitutional class with a religious theme. He says the flag means heritage to many people in the South and that he meant to educate and inform.

“People automatically skewed it to being racist,” Thomas said.

The Rev. Damon Lynch Jr. of Cincinnati, a civil rights leader, said Thomas’ use of the flag without considering its racial overtones shows his ignorance.

“The flag represents slavery, and he needs to inquire a little more into what the flag has meant,” Lynch said.

Kelly Kohls, president of the Springboro school board and a Warren County tea party leader, said she was surprised by Thomas’ actions and comments at the meeting last week.

“I didn’t get his message, if he had one in there,” she said, adding that the board couldn’t restrict public comments in meetings.

Thomas calls himself the head of the Springboro tea party. Other tea party activists distanced themselves from him three years ago after he went on a social media rant against Hispanics.

 

Va. newspaper to apologize over anonymous comment

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — A Charlottesville weekly newspaper apologized Tuesday for a profane, racist rant that appeared in its publication.

The mea culpa came a day after dozens of people protested outside C-VILLE Weekly’s offices. Editor Giles Morris also said the paper had decided to alter its policy for The Rant, a section of the newspaper that publishes anonymous voicemail messages, to make it clear that it would not publish “racist, sexist or otherwise hate-inspired language.”

Monday’s protest was prompted by a comment that appeared in last week’s newspaper that used profanities and accused local black residents of asking for free food at restaurants.

“As a newspaper, we take the right to free speech very seriously, but as a voice for our community, we also understand the responsibility we have to our readers to publish a paper aimed at fostering a positive dialogue on important issues,” Morris said in an email. “Also, we want our paper to be recognized for its editorial voice and news priorities, the content we make ourselves, and not be defined by the words of an anonymous racist phone caller.”

About 40 people protested and held signs, including one that read “Hate speech isn’t free speech” outside the newspaper.

Jeff Winder, who helped organize the event, said an apology isn’t enough. He and others want the newspaper to discontinue the anonymous comment section.

“People should not be allowed to hide behind The Rant,” protester Deirdre Gilmore told WCAV-TV (http://bit.ly/13UhUSW). “If you feel a certain type of way, you need to show your face. It’s dangerous because it gives people the platform for hatred.”

Morris stood behind the value of the anonymous section.

“Sometimes it shows you the ugly side of the community,” Morris said. “That’s not the worst thing for people to be aware of.”

In his published apology, Morris said he regretted the error. It’s the paper’s policy to edit submissions that contain hate or libelous speech, he said.

“Giving voice to racist sentiments is not consistent with the mission of this paper or the aim of The Rant,” the apology read.

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