Racist Graffiti Leads To Arrests

Dan Morse, Washington Post, September 13, 2007

The arrest Saturday of another group of teenagers for painting “KKK” in Charles County appears to further the notion—at least in recent cases—that racist graffiti has been the work of teens wanting attention as much as anything else.

Three of the four teenagers charged over the weekend were African American, according to the Charles County Sheriff’s Office. Their spray-painted markings, in the Wexford Village neighborhood in Waldorf last month, seemed to have a nonsensical nature. Next to “KKK,” a group traditionally opposed to homosexuality, was “Gay Pride,” authorities said.

This follows an incident in March, when four teens were arrested for defiling playground equipment at Dr. Gustavus Brown Elementary School in Waldorf. Their messages extolled white supremacy and the Bloods, a largely black national street gang. The juveniles charged in that case also were a racially and ethnically diverse group, authorities said. Detective Christopher Shankster of the Sheriff’s Office said the four “wanted a piece” of media attention.

No clear motive has surfaced in the latest case, which was solved after a student left an anonymous tip in a box at a high school.

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The four youths had at least one can of spray paint. They allegedly painted vulgar phrases and drawings on about 17 vehicles, mailboxes and driveways in the neighborhood where many African Americans live. More specifically, they allegedly wrote “KKK” and “Gay Pride” on four vehicles, drew a penis on a truck and destroyed a mailbox.

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The latest arrests left some Charles residents disheartened and scratching their heads.

“It kind of hits you like a ton of bricks,” said William Braxton, 54, president of the Charles County Chapter of the NAACP.

He said the teenagers, if they did this, probably do not have the same perspective of Klan members as people of his generation, who remember the Klan’s lethal tactics of the 1960s and before. “They don’t have a clue of what the KKK really means,” Braxton said.

“They’re just kids being stupid,” he added. “I really would like to sit down and talk to them about Martin Luther King.”

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