NEPA News, Nov. 19, 2002
An Illinois-based white supremacist group will be allowed to hold a small meeting at a private library in York without having to obtain at least $1 million in liability insurance as previously was required by library policy, according to an attorney involved in the discussions.
The library’s executive director did not immediately return a telephone message Monday, but an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who represented the white supremacist World Church of the Creator in a lawsuit against the library said an agreement between the two parties would be entered Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg.
The attorney, Stefan Presser, has criticized the Martin Memorial Library’s policy as unconstitutional because it restricted free speech, although the library is private and generally not subject to provisions of the Constitution.
White supremacists have been allowed to hold two public gatherings this year in York, a city of about 41,000 where the belated prosecution of the murders of a black woman and a white policeman that occurred during the city’s 1969 race riots have recently stirred strong emotions. One of the gatherings turned violent, sparking fear that violence would spiral if racist groups were allowed to return.
The new agreement, signed Thursday by representatives of the library and the white supremacists, would allow groups to hold meetings of 25 or fewer people at the library without having to show proof of $1 million in liability insurance and post a bond equal to the estimated cost of providing extra security, Presser said.
In exchange, a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in July by the World Church of the Creator, of East Peoria, Ill., would be dropped after 60 days, unless the library violates the provisions of the agreement, Presser said.
“You can’t say to the world, ‘I’m having a meeting, come on down,’” Presser said. “You literally have to have a list of invitees and that list of invitees will be permitted to attend.”
Matt Hale, the leader of the World Church, was denied a permit to meet at the library June 22.
“I am anxious to speak once again in York as soon as possible because I know that many residents there want to hear our message,” Hale said in a statement Monday.
Hale said he would schedule a meeting at the library within the week.
The library created the policy in January, less than two weeks after the World Church’s first meeting there sparked fights in the streets around the library between hundreds of protesters and supporters. Police made 25 arrests and several people were treated for injuries.
In April, The Aryan Nations group based in Hayden Lake, Idaho, gathered briefly on a downtown street after the city and county of York denied the group a permit amid concerns that the white supremacists might come armed.