Cross-Burning Spurs Anti-Hate Rally In Whatcom County

LYNDEN, Whatcom County - A cross-burning at a migrant-labor camp outside this city near the U.S.-Canadian border has been condemned by local officials and national minority-rights activists.

About 350 ministers, social workers, youths, lawmakers, laborers and professionals attended a candlelight vigil and one-mile march Thursday night to the driveway where a 10-foot cross was set afire five nights earlier.

Migrant workers sat on the grass and gathered in clusters at nearby cabins, listening to speeches, chants and prayers in English and Spanish.

A passing motorist screamed a racial slur during the rally, which was called to show Whatcom County won't tolerate hate crimes, said Christina Castorena, president of the local council of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

"We come united," Castorena said. "We're not alone. We come in all colors and sexes."

In a statement issued from the League of United Latin American Citizens headquarters in El Paso, Texas, national President Belen Robles said the 250,000-member group "will not tolerate crimes like this in any town in any state in the nation."

"We must drive a wooden stake through the ugly heart of racism," said a statement from Gov. Mike Lowry that was read at the rally.

The solid cabins and children's playground mark the migrant camp as one of the better ones in the state, but discrimination and prejudice persist, Rodriguez said.

No one has claimed responsibility for the cross-burning, and investigators have no leads, Sheriff Dale Brandland said. He was joined at the rally by most of the municipal police chiefs in the county.

"I thought we were above this in Whatcom County," Brandland said. "I can't help but be ashamed."