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Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Dick Greco apologizes for 'panty raid' remark

11

February

TAMPA -- Former mayor Dick Greco has apologized for likening Tampa's race riots of the late 1960s to a panty raid. Greco offered the apology during a candidates forum sponsored by Creative Loafing on Thursday night. On Friday morning, Greco also said he also had called two leaders of the Hillsborough County NAACP to say he was sorry for the gaffe.

"I apologized about the stupid remark I made that didn't make any sense because I didn't finish my chain of thought," Greco told Bay Buzz.

During a St. Petersburg Times-Bay News 9 debate televised Tuesday night, Greco compared the city's 1960s race riots to the lingerie-stealing pranks once popular on college campuses. People could have hurt one another during the riots, he said, but didn't.

"It was more like a panty raid-type thing," Greco said during the live broadcast.

Asked about the remark minutes after Tuesday night's debate ended , Greco said he was referring to the 1967 disturbances that followed the death of a 19-year-old African-American man who was shot and killed by police.

Asked to elaborate on Wednesday, Greco said he might have been talking about the riots of 1967, which took place a few months before he was elected mayor, or those of 1968, which came after his election, but "what difference does it make?" Greco also said he was referring to the way both panty raids and the civil disturbances of the 1960s started on college campuses and spread across the country like "a fad."

On Friday, Greco said he was definitely referring to the 1968 unrest. News accounts from that year describe how the newly elected Greco patrolled trouble spots in an effort to keep the peace after the arrest of a black woman on a drunkenness charge and the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At one point, an estimated 200 people took to the streets throwing bottles.

With a few small fires set, rioters shooting into the air and police massing for a response, Greco recalled Friday that he and a few friends walked onto Central Avenue and approached those involved in the 1968 disturbance. He said he climbed onto a flower pot in front of the Pyramid Lounge and invited the rioters to his office so everyone could talk and work out whatever the problem was. And even during the disturbances, Greco added, "there wasn't a hatred between black and white."

Greco said Friday that the 1967 riot, which followed the death of Martin Chambers, was "not the event I was describing" during the televised debate, but at the time he didn't say fully what he was talking about during the 30 seconds he had to respond to a question about race relations in Tampa.

Greco added, as he has before, that during his first terms in the mayor's office, from 1967 to 1974, he greatly improved the city's record hiring black employees, and he hired Tampa's first black firefighter, first black lawyer in the city attorney's office and others.

 "Many things had to be corrected in those days that had been wrong for a long time and I was the one who did it," he said. "We came a long, long, long way."

 

 

 

 

[Last modified: Friday, February 11, 2011 10:49am]

    

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