Community Leaders Outraged By Beating Death
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Community leaders and civil rights activists expressed outrage at the beating death of a black man by white youths believed to be ″skinheads,″ and one group called on citizens to take direct action.
Sunday’s slaying was the nation’s third linked to the bands of young toughs who promote white supremacy. Skinheads, whose name is derived from their shaved heads, have been linked to numerous criminal acts against blacks, Asians, Jews and homosexuals nationwide.
Two other black men were injured in the attack by three young men, who had shaved heads and wore military jackets. The three victims were Ethiopian immigrants.
Mayor Bud Clark said in a statement Monday he was ″saddened and disturbed″ by the beatings, and urged citizens and public officials to find a constructive solution to racial violence.
″A cowardly act against any one of our citizens is a cowardly act against every one of our citizens,″ City Commissioner Bob Koch said at a news conference. ″But let us not react out of hatred. Let us react with love and understanding.″
The militant Jewish Defense Organization mailed letters to Portland synagogues asking them to arm their congregations.
″Violence will be met with violence,″ said Mordechai Levy, head of the 3,000-member group based in New York.
He said a $10,000 reward was being offered for information about the beatings, or to anyone who physically restrains a neo-Nazi from doing violence against a minority group.
Police spokesman Dave Simpson said Monday that investigators had no leads in finding the men who attacked Mulugeta Seraw, 27, Wondwosen Tesfaye, 24, and Tilahule Antneh, 31. He said they may be skinheads.
Seraw was pronounced dead at Emanuel Hospital & Health Center, where the two survivors were treated and released.
Portland’s African community planned a memorial service for Seraw, who emigrated from Ethiopia seven years ago and worked at a car rental agency.
″This is really kind of sad, for somebody to be looking for someone with dark skin,″ said Abdi Hassan, who teaches a course on southern Africa at Portland State University. ″No one is safe, really, and it’s a scary thought.″
About 2,000 skinheads are active in 21 states, according to a report issued last month by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, which surveys race- or religion-motivated crimes.
The Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment last month identified Oregon as a ″hotbed″ of skinhead activity. In Portland, skinheads have been linked to various acts of vandalism and at least two assaults, including the beating of an Asian man in March.
Portland and the Northwest are ripe for such activity because so few members of minority groups live here, said Herman Brame, executive assistant for the Black United Fund. The Northwest has been targeted by white supremacist groups as the site for an Aryan ″homeland.″
Asked if Portland police were tracking skinhead activity, Simpson would say only that the police intelligence unit ″is aware of some of their activities.″
″Being a gang member isn’t against the law. We deal with people who violate the law,″ he said.
Antneh and Tesfaye told police they were dropping Seraw off at his apartment in a primarily white neighborhood early Sunday when three men and two women pulled up in a car.
The three men beat Seraw with a baseball bat and kicked him, Antneh said, and beat the other two when they tried to intervene. He said the attack lasted no more than two minutes.
″The women inside the car were shouting. They were saying ’Let’s kill him. Kick him,‴ Antneh told The Oregonian newspaper. ″They (the men) never said anything. They just jumped us.″
Skinheads were suspected in the beating death last December of a 41-year- old black man in Tampa, Fla., and the stabbing death in February of a 24- year-old white man who took a black friend to a party in Santa Clara County, Calif.