Those attending an NAACP-sponsored town hall meeting Tuesday night celebrated the governor's decision to fire two troopers involved in a KKK prank, but pointed out other areas of concern.
Approximately 200 people came to the United Auto Workers Local 913 hall to discuss the incident, which occurred at the Sandusky post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Many in the audience did not know Gov. Ted Stickland had called for the firing of troopers Eric E. Wlodarsky and Craig T. Franklin until Ida Alexander, president of the NAACP's Sandusky chapter, announced it at the start of the meeting.
Wlodarsky and Franklin were disciplined after it was discovered that Franklin dressed up in KKK-like garb and Wlodarsky snapped his picture. Both troopers were on duty at the time -- the day before the national holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. They said the picture was taken as a joke, based on a skit by comedian Dave Chappelle.
The governor's decision Tuesday escalated that discipline to termination.
"You have a victory, so you should be rejoicing," WilliAnn Moore, District 1 coordinator for the Ohio State Conference of the NAACP, told the audience.
Prior to the meeting, Alexander told the Register she had received a call from Strickland's office earlier in the day informing her of the governor's decision. The announcement brought tears to her eyes, she said.
"I have to commend the governor for showing zero tolerance," Alexander said.
The meeting was run in town-hall format. Moderators toured the crowd with cordless microphones and granted audience members a two-minute time limit to express their views.
"They said it was a joke, but the joke has been on us for many years," Willie L. McCarthy said of the trooper incident.
"This community has no place for the Klan or any other hate group," McCarthy added.
Others in the crowd wondered how they could trust law enforcement officers after the incident, while others criticized Sandusky police for abusive behavior.
Barbara Clark told of moving to Sandusky from the South and being shocked at how racist the area was.
"I found more racism in Sandusky than anywhere down there," Clark said. She also told the crowd the story of how she found noose in her locker while at work.
"To see a noose is a chilling fact," Clark said.
The crowd touched on a wide variety of topics, including finding ways to get more minorities into law enforcement.
Some expressed frustration that it took the KKK incident to spark action in the black community.
"I think it's a travesty that it takes a situation like this for us to come together," community activist Richard Koonce said.
Some in the crowd took the chance to beat up on the leadership of the local NAACP chapter. Dorothy Clark said the organization did nothing several years ago to help her when she rallied at the county courthouse to protest treatment her son received.
Donald Harris, who identified himself as a federal attorney, stood up for the NAACP and took exception with the criticism of the organization.
"Point the finger at yourself," he told the audience. "What have you done?"