Harrisburg chapter of NAACP urges martial law
The Harrisburg Chapter of the NAACP is calling on Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell to suspend some civil liberties and impose martial law in the city to halt the wave of recent lawlessness.
Chapter President Stanley Lawson also called on Rendell to bring in the state National Guard for at least 30 days and to impose a curfew. In June, there have been at least 12 shootings, many of them in the daytime, including a man killed Wednesday at a busy city intersection during the lunch hour.
"The Guard is for floods and natural disasters. I don't know any more of a natural disaster than of our young people being killed," he said at a general membership meeting of about 25 people at Capitol Presbyterian Church, 14th and Cumberland streets.
"It's time for some real action," he said. "Right now the important thing is to stop this madness."
"We're beyond what the Harrisburg police department can do. We need help," Lawson said.
Martial law is a system of rules that takes effect when the military takes control of the normal administration of justice, normally in times of emergency.
At about the same time Lawson was speaking, Rendell was at another community meeting in Harrisburg where he promised to have state police patrol city streets to increase the presence of law enforcement.
Lawson noted that there was historical precedent for the Guard to step in, recalling the race riots in 1968 following the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King in Memphis, Tenn.
Lawson said that many reasons have been given for the wave of shootings, such as drugs, robberies and neighborhood turf wars. Fear is the bigger reason, he suggested.
"The young men, it's fear, it's just fear. They think: 'I'm going to get them before they get me,'" he said.
When one man noted the presence of the Guardian Angels from York coming to Harrisburg, Lawson responded: "I appreciate the Guardian Angels, but I see what's going on in York, Lancaster and Philadelphia. It's everywhere. I'm concerned about what is going on in Harrisburg."
Member and attorney Stanley Mitchell noted the civil rights organization is asking for a short suspension of some civil rights, but added: "We have the civil rights not to be shot."