ACORN and 9-11

colist-admin at colist-admin at
Tue Nov 13 15:12:02 CST 2001

[ed:  those of you concerned about whether community organizing 
can and should continue on its pre 9-11 courses will find this letter 
to the editor (reprinted with permission) of interest.]

From: "John M. Beam" <beam at>

Here is a recent letter published in the City Paper last week.

Back to the Barricades

We at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform 
Now (ACORN) want to respond to Ed Rothstein's letter about the 
"softening" of our tactics in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist 
attacks (The Mail, Oct. 17): We couldn't agree more. Mitch Klein's 
comments, quoted in the Sept. 26 Nose article, were meant to 
reflect a temporary situation--we, like most Americans, were 
shocked by the attacks and forced to evaluate our place. But we 
also believe that there are thousands of other victims with 
overlooked and less sensational stories that are tragedies 

They are the children of Baltimore without a decent education or 
library; they are the low-wage workers who never see the benefits 
of their tax dollars; and they are the homeowners stripped of the 
equity--and sometimes their homes--by predatory lenders. And as 
our president suggested, we decided to get back to our daily 
business. For us that means fighting for social justice.  

So when Mayor O'Malley decided to "honor" Household Financial, 
one of the nation's largest and most notorious predatory lenders, 
we disrupted his back-slapping party with a group of 75 angry inner-
city residents who were fed up with this lender's practices. After 
our chanting disrupted the $75-a-plate dinner, we were asked to 
leave under police supervision. As we peacefully left the scene, we 
discovered that the police had penned in our buses and were 
threatening our members with arrest--community residents, senior 
citizens, and children who had simply tried to exercise their 
constitutional right to free speech and public assembly.  

We don't know whether the police acted on orders from the mayor, 
but we wouldn't be surprised. With his popularity quickly 
disappearing among community and religious organizations, 
O'Malley has used a heinous act of terrorism to ignore or discredit 
any  criticism. Look at the hypocrisy in his aide's comment 
concerning Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development public 
rally critical of the mayor (quoted in The Sun), that he was 
surprised that BUILD could even think of politics at a time like this. 
Meanwhile, the mayor has played politics at full tilt, trying to raise 
his nationwide profile while ignoring the needs of average citizens.  

The predatory lenders have also gone back to their daily business: 
ripping off Baltimore's homeowners. We need to get back to work 
fighting for people's rights. In this new post-9/11 era, we all need to 
remember that what keeps this country great is our constitutional 
rights to assembly and freedom of speech--not unthinking 
dedication to our leaders. ACORN has always been committed to 
nonviolence, and we  shudder to see the authorities use this 
national crisis to intimidate and censor any and all criticism.  

                     Norma Washington
                     President, Maryland ACORN


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