Parkwood residents will combat racism

Parkwood East residents came together Tuesday night to send a strong response to the people who invaded their neighborhood with racist fliers.

The message — There is no room for hate.

Members of the Kitsap County Human Rights Council and Kitsap Human Rights Network met with the Parkwood East Homeowners Association at their monthly meeting.

“All we want to do is nip this in the bud before it goes any further,” said Bill Hankins, president for the Association.

About 30 people crammed into the clubhouse to learn what they could do next.

“You have to respond and respond resoundingly. We will not have hate in our neighborhood,” said Jerry Hebert, director for the Kitsap Human Rights Network.

The neighborhood is responding to the distribution of racist fliers from the National Alliance, a white separatist group based in West Virginia. The fliers, used as a recruiting tool, were found in driveways Monday, Feb. 24.

Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office deputy Pete Ball attended the meeting to answer questions about law enforcement’s role in the situation.

Under current state and federal law there isn’t much they can do, he said.

In his 23 years with the KCSO he has seen the occasional bubbling up of undesirable groups such as gangs and skinheads. So far the county has done a good job of letting these groups know they will not be tolerated, Ball said.

“If they know this community is not going to allow this here, they’re going to go someplace else,” he said.

Still people called the fliers an invasion, free speech or not.

Rose Singleton, who does not live in the neighborhood, said the act should be considered a crime.

“How dare you say the law says that this is not a crime,” she said.

Singleton serves as secretary for the local NAACP chapter, but attended the meeting as a concerned citizen.

“It is like you’re legalizing the devil himself,” she said about the fliers.

“We want these people to realize we are not going to go away, they will have to go away,” she said.

Both Hebert and Leif Bentsen of the human rights council encouraged residents to join the Hate Free Community campaign.

The grassroots campaign seeks to educate community members on how best to respond to hate and bias incidents. It also helps people to get to know their neighbors.

Plans for a cookout that would help unite the neighborhood against hate also got under way with a tentative date set for mid-May. The Kitsap Human Rights Network would provide the food when people commit to attending the event.

The homeowners association will set the date at its next meeting April 8.

An announcement about the picnic plans will be distributed to the 430 homes in the neighborhood via the Association’s newsletter.

Meanwhile, the fliers are still a lingering topic of conversation among residents, said Parkwood East Homeowners Association vice president Keith Goodsell.

“It’s something that hits home,” he said.

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