So Sorry, Wrong Politics -- Officials Yank Honors Of Civil-Rights Leader

Robinson to speak

Amelia Boynton Robinson is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. tonight at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, 420 30th Ave. E.

Red-faced and put-off officials rescinded honors and proclamations for a civil-rights leader visiting Seattle after learning she was promoting political extremist Lyndon LaRouche during her appearances.

Yesterday was supposed to be Amelia Boynton Robinson Day in Washington state, with similar honors on tap for the 81-year-old African American in King County. The city of Seattle also named Feb. 7 as Robinson's day.

But some officials quickly cried foul. They learned Robinson was using her public forum in Black History Month talks at the University of Washington and Garfield High School to voice her support for LaRouche.

LaRouche, a one-time Marxist and a four-time presidential candidate, is known for his bizarre views. He has claimed Britain's Queen Elizabeth is the "head of the drug lobby," and the International Monetary Fund "is engaged in mass murder" by spreading AIDS through its economic policies.

He has been in jail since 1989 for fraud and money-raising abuses.

Officials don't deny that Robinson played a key role in the civil-rights movement or that she was the 1990 recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Medal. However, they say her present political leanings were never brought to light when she was nominated for recognition.

"This is a case in which we clearly were misled," said Sheryl Hutchison, spokeswoman for Gov. Booth Gardner. "There were just no red flags when we went through the screening process."

The state withdrew its proclamation yesterday for Robinson, the first time such an action had been taken, said Hutchison.

The King County Council pulled its recognition of Robinson off yesterday's agenda after learning of the LaRouche ties, said Dave Gering, council spokesman.

The mayor also canceled its proclamation. "It was a very difficult decision. The mayor has a lot of respect for her courage during the civil-rights movement of the 1960s, but we don't feel her handlers gave us full and accurate information about her current activities. And the mayor's office generally does not issue proclamations for individuals pushing political candidates," said Mark Murray, spokesman for Mayor Norm Rice.

Murray added, though, that it was "unlikely we would have issued a proclamation had the sponsors of this provided full information. Our office was not informed about her political affiliation."

Not fair, said Paul Glumaz, Washington state LaRouche organizer.

"This is not a bait-and-switch operation," said Glumaz. "We made sure sure everyone knew she was associated with the Schiller Institute."

The Schiller Institute, one of many organizations in the LaRouche orbit, sponsored Robinson's Seattle visit and nominated her for the honors. But city, county and state officials said they didn't know the institute was associated with LaRouche or didn't connect it with Robinson.

"Any official who tells you they didn't know it, is now covering their ass," said Pat Ruckert, LaRouche supporter. "The issue is that it's not politically correct to be associated with Lyndon LaRouche."

Ruckert said Robinson would not agree to be interviewed by telephone but said it was a slap in Robinson's face for the county and state honors to be recalled: "The officials are spitting on everything she has done in her life. It's a disgusting insult and a despicable display of political cowardice."

The backpedaling on Robinson began after her lecture Wednesday night at the UW in which she talked of LaRouche's latest bid for the presidency under the National Democratic Policy Committee.

She also spoke Thursday at Garfield High School, briefly mentioning LaRouche's policies. After her talk, LaRouche material was passed out to some of the 500 students present, said Perry Wilkins, Garfield principal.

"We weren't aware of that (her politics) when we agreed to have her speak," said Wilkins. "We felt it was inappropriate" for Robinson to use the history speech as a quasi-political forum, he said.

When word of Robinson's leanings began getting around Thursday and yesterday, officials scrambled to undo the proclamations and second-guess the policy used to grant such honors.

"It's a lesson to us to ask for more background information and letters of reference," said Hutchison of the governor's office.