Magazine article American Libraries

White-Rights Speech Triggers Violence, New Meeting-Room Policy. (News Fronts)

Magazine article American Libraries

White-Rights Speech Triggers Violence, New Meeting-Room Policy. (News Fronts)

Article excerpt

A January 12 speech at the Martin Memorial Library in York, Pennsylvania, by World Church of the Creator founder Matthew Hale drew an audience of 70 and brought hundreds more out into the streets. Clashes outside the library between supporters of the white supremacist and anti-racist protesters resulted in 25 arrests and the confiscation of several guns, the Associated Press reported January 13. The library itself was not damaged.

Michael Cook, of the World Church's York area chapter, told the library when he reserved the meeting space last November that it was for his church; it was only in December that officials learned which church he meant. Hale said he wanted to speak in York because of racial tensions there: Last year nine white men, including former mayor Charles Robertson, were arrested for the 1969 shooting death of a black woman during race riots there, according to the January 13 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Citing safety concerns raised by Hale's appearances last year at libraries in Wallingford, Connecticut, and Schaumburg, Illinois, that drew hundreds of angry protesters, York officials consulted their attorney, other libraries, the state attorney general's office, and local law enforcement before deciding to close the building to the public for the day. Cancelling the event was never considered, Director Bob Schell told American Libraries, since "the mission of the free public library includes advocacy of First Amendment rights. …

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