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Pro and Con

Posted 5/12/2004

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the accompanying article, "Walk This Way," was rendered absolutely worthless (Mobtown Beat, April 28). The enormous picture of two isolated counterdemonstrators completely negated the reportage that followed about the historic April 25 March for Women's Lives. The huge picture inaccurately portrayed and entirely skewed the message of exactly who was walking for what.

"Who" was "walking" was more than a million marchers from across the nation, and "why" they were "walking" was to proclaim their support for women's rights and reproductive freedom, as well as their determination to prevent further deterioration of women's health and abortion rights.

The picture you chose to illustrate this historic event? Taking a full third of the space devoted to march reportage, City Paper runs a picture of two--count 'em, two--counterdemonstrators holding a sign summing up the scope and complexity of the issue: defend life.

Ummm, yeah--this is an insightful preface to the article and an accurate reflection of events.

Let's consider some of the pictures that could have accompanied the article. How about one of the magnificent aerial views of the march, showing pink- and purple-clad participants jamming the entire length and sides of the 1.5 mile-long mall? Like a Seurat painting, the amazing aerial views show a million tiny dots too small to identify individually that take on clarity and significance when viewed as a whole (attached). Or perhaps a picture of any of the groups of young activists from any of the dozens of buses coming from Baltimore-area college campuses? Maybe some of the glowing faces of Morgan State University students, who organized two buses to the rally (pics available upon request). Or one of the innumerable (big, burly, straight) men wearing neon pink T-shirts proclaiming this is what a feminist looks like. Or possibly one of the many wonderfully witty pro-choice signs mentioned in the article--you know, something actually related to the content of the article and the event itself?

Oh, and about the article: City Paper reported that there were "hundreds of thousands" of marchers. Did anyone even speak to march organizers or official estimators to get an accurate participant count? C-Span, The Washington Post, and other news media did. They accurately reported more than 1 million marchers--the Post reported an estimated 1.15 million, based on the number of registration sheets signed and the number of count me in stickers that were pasted on participants as they got off buses or entered the march area. Indeed, other news media reported that the April 25 march, more than 1 million strong, was the largest march of any kind in U.S. history.

Let me say it again: the largest march on our nation's capital on any issue in U.S. history. And this is the picture you chose to illustrate the historic event? Shame on you. I expect better from City Paper's fine staff. Please consider running a representative picture and correcting your error. And please don't disappoint us again.

Christine R. Brodak

Editor Lee Gardner responds: If you look at the photograph again, you will notice the woman making the "bunny ears" sign over the male counterdemonstrator's head. Subtle, I admit, but we thought it captured something of the spirit of the march, and we had already put a small photograph of an anti-Bush protester holding a sign on the cover.

As for the size of the march, we remember the 1995 Million Man March, as does the U.S. Park Police, which no longer provides official attendance estimates for such events thanks to past controversies over guessing the numbers involved. The organizers of the March for Women's Lives estimate 1,150,00 marchers, a number arrived at by using some of the same methods that got Park Police in trouble with the organizers of the Million Man March. An unbylined April 26 Washington Post article leads with an estimate of "more than 500,000" marchers before reporting the organizers' figure; the story also notes that "the art of making crowd estimates is notoriously imprecise and frequently a topic of heated debate." We stand by "hundreds of thousands."

A True Gamble

Dear Mr. Smith: You ignore or are unaware of certain facts which would demolish your argument to "let it ride" (Right Field, April 21). The issue of letting our state's fiscal planning depend upon the wishes and wiles of big-time gambling is certainly what will happen if we start with slots, and is totally unacceptable to any thoughtful and principled administration. The whole debate is focused on money, not morals.

In any referendum of the people, the gambling fraternity could and would spend millions to convince them that gambling was their way to avoid bearing their share of governmental costs by putting it on the backs of slot-machine and casino losers. The people who understand what a threat gambling is to the welfare of this state could not possibly match what the gambling interests could put out for advertising, television, etc. People would be sold on the something for nothing concept--i.e., "no new taxes."

As was shown when the House of Delegates passed the bill to allow slots in every county in the state--including Baltimore and Dorchester counties--Gov. Robert Ehrlich said he would veto it. He is adamantly opposed to slots in his backyard, as are the people there. They will certainly, as shown, vote for slots somewhere else so long as it doesn't impinge on their way of life. Ehrlich's "no new taxes" mantra is strictly re-election propaganda since he is increasing taxes anyway. A 1-cent sales-tax increase would be welcomed to avoid the problem of the Thornton Plan and other holes in the budget--but he will have none of it.

If slots were made legal at Pimlico, the cost of the necessary infrastructure, bridge, and road work to make it accessible for the 20,000 or 30,000 patrons a day, 365 days a year, 18 hours a day that the slots' bills proposed, would, in the estimation of city officials, exceed $70 million, plus $8 million to $10 million in annual expenditure for extra-duty police, fire, ambulance, clean-up crews, criminal investigation and prosecution as a result of the huge influx of people in the urban areas surrounding the racetrack, and even millions more for start-up costs and expenses. No one in favor of slots has agreed to underwrite these expenses in whole or even in part, although in the Ehrlich bill the state said it "may" give some help in this connection. The amount that slots are supposed to throw off to the city would not even touch it. Especially since that money is designed for neighborhood improvement, not for Pimlico Race Course improvement, so who pays for it? You bet the citizens of Baltimore will necessarily have substantial increased taxes.

Why should they? Why should the state subsidize the private enterprise of horse racing if indeed those who stand to profit from it will not reinvest their profits in "saving racing." Bear in mind these companies have already spent millions lobbying for slots at Pimlico and Laurel. Why didn't they put this money into upgrading the tracks, upgrading the purses, helping the poor horse breeders and the people employed in the industry?

Donald Rothman

Black v. White

If there is no summer school for Baltimore children, I believe the entire administrative and support staffs at city schools' North Avenue headquarters should be fired (Mobtown Beat, April 21). School administrators who cannot prove why black children are not learning in Baltimore City should not be in charge of the educational destiny of poor black children.

I know that the disparity between the rich white and black middle classes and the poor, vulnerable black children is a reality city educators are unwilling to discuss without showing the face of racism. Baltimore's educators would rather give a false appearance that their narrow-minded animosity against poor children is the reason why the city school system is in debt. Namely, countless programs to get poor children to learn cost the school system money in terms of teachers, consultants, and paperwork.

In my opinion, I believe that most white educators in Baltimore City do not want poor black children to learn. Keeping poor black children from learning keeps certain administrators and teachers with a job.

Our black educators and black politicians are willing partners in perpetrating the political system wherein white folks' rights are supreme. A lot of black bourgeoisie with money are not interested in helping poor black children liberate themselves from the educational plantations of white supremacy. Now blacks with money are playing the game of "tokenism" to bring along a few poor blacks at a time.

As I see it, all of our ministers must pool their monies together and create a separate but equal public school system in every "mega" black church in Baltimore for all of our black children. Perhaps parents of poor students attending schools in Baltimore should bring lawsuits against the city for failing to educate their children during the regular school year. White people do not like to lose their money. If money talks, poor black folks must find lawyers to help them get money from white folks who do not think poor black folks ought to be educated in Baltimore.

Celebrating the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education is a joke, especially when the U.S. government is providing better educational opportunities and money (free of "no child left behind" schemes) to the children in Iraq.

Larnell Custis Butler

Editor's note: Congratulations are in order for Baltimore's Emily Ellickson-Brown, who won herself an all-access pass to the recent Maryland Film Festival by answering the five questions asked in our annual Film Fest Frenzy trivia quiz lickety-split. The correct answers for those keeping score at home: 1) Dog Days, 2) a little girl in a nightgown, 3) 50 cents, 4) a violinist, and 5) Mandy Moore.

Address letters to The Mail, City Paper, 812 Park Ave., Baltimore, MD 21201; fax: (410) 523-0138; e-mail: Only letters that address material published in or policies of CP, are no more than 500 words long, and include the writer's name, address, and daytime phone number will be considered for publication. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

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