The National People's Democratic Uhuru Movement cannot be allowed to continue to masquerade as a legitimate grass roots organization. It is a small, radical hate group that has incited violence and inflamed passions with dangerous rhetoric. St. Petersburg's black community should take the lead in denouncing the group and dispelling any misconception that the Uhuru group speaks for law-abiding residents in the neighborhoods where the disturbances have occurred.
Within minutes after TyRon Lewis was killed by a white police officer Oct. 24, members of this militant organization took advantage of the tragedy. Uhuru members went to the scene, taunting police officers and handing out inflammatory fliers. Since that night, they have done everything possible to encourage lawlessness. They demanded the execution of Mayor David Fischer, police Chief Darrel Stephens and the two police officers involved in the shooting. As others pleaded for calm, Uhuru leader Omali Yeshitela and other group members shouted "jail the killer pigs."
The Uhuru group attempted to intimidate the grand jury by promising more violence if it failed to indict officer James Knight on murder charges. There is every indication that they helped deliver on that threat. While police may have poorly executed their plan to arrest key members of the group before the grand jury's findings were released, the strategy was sound.
This has gone beyond exercising First Amendment rights and engaging in civil disobedience. This is a calculated pattern of behavior that simply cannot be tolerated. It is an intentional effort to spark violence that endangers the lives of the black residents the Uhurus claim to represent.
Inciting a riot is a crime. State Attorney Bernie McCabe should intensify his investigation of the Uhuru group and swiftly determine whether there is enough evidence to charge particular members. Their irresponsible actions have nothing to do with creating jobs and opportunities in low-income neighborhoods. They have everything to do with creating chaos and tearing down.
The Uhurus do not deserve to be included with groups such as the Community Alliance, the Urban League and the NAACP in discussions about the future of St. Petersburg's predominantly black neighborhoods. Their behavior should be condemned in the strongest possible terms, not rewarded with a seat at the negotiating table.