Md. activists say ‘Emmett Till Alerts’ could help raise awareness of hate incidents

Just since May, there have been nine different times when churches in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, have been vandalized by someone expressing hate or bias.

Churches have also been vandalized in Montgomery County. And in June, a Wicomico County student was investigated after posting a video that showed him threatening Black students at his school.



“Most Annapolitans, most people living in Anne Arundel County, have not heard that story, although it was reported,” said Carl Snowden, a civil rights activist from Annapolis who spoke outside a church in Gambrills that was vandalized with racist graffiti earlier this week. “There are stories like that, in Montgomery County, where there has been property desecrated and African Americans in this county were not aware of it.”

He added, “There are racial incidents that occur in America and Maryland on a regular basis. Most people have no idea that they occurred. We think that they’re just isolated incidents.”

Community activists hope “Emmett Till Alerts” could change that.

Snowden and other civil rights leaders from around Maryland came up with the idea last weekend, before the church in Gambrills was vandalized, at a conference in Baltimore. The concept and model is based on the way Amber Alerts are used to publicize kidnapped children.

“Through this Emmett Till Alert, when a racial incident of any kind occurs, we will be able to communicate to” people like other civil rights leaders, politicians, and clergy throughout the state, Snowden said.

“It’s important because we have to have a rapid response,” Snowden said. “When incidents like this take place we must show up. We must be able to bring our resources.”

The hope is to have the app operational and ready for download by the end of August, coinciding with the anniversary of Till’s death. While anyone would be able to download the app to receive the alerts, only certain people will have the ability to send out the alerts, so random people wouldn’t be able to spread misinformation.

Likewise, he said, it could also help quell rumors about other incidents. Snowden mentioned the recent death of an older Black woman in Annapolis who was found hanging. He said on social media that there were concerns and rumors about her death being a lynching, when in fact, he said, she took her own life.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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