'Rally Against Hate' held at City Hall

July 28, 2009 2:28:24 PM PDT
People upset over what they're calling racism in the Houston Fire Department held a rally downtown on Tuesday. They gathered at Houston City Hall following a string of incidents they say are offensive to minorities and women. Over the last several months, tension has been building within the Houston Fire Department. The most recent incident is still under investigation and involves two female firefighters.

You may recall it was a noose which sparked the rumors and accusation of racism within the department. It was found in a locker of an HFD captain. The captain apologized Monday for the incident, saying it was all a misunderstanding. He says the rope was a memento from his training days and he was not aware of the racial symbolism.

Several other more severe situations have come up since that noose was first discovered. Just this month, someone vandalized the women's quarters at a fire station. Female firefighters found the walls covered in sexist and racist graffiti.

While money has been earmarked for racial sensitivity training, some feel there should be a zero tolerance policy when it comes to race. Several local community leaders, along with the Houston Black Firefighters Association, rallied at city hall Tuesday. They hoped a massive public turnout would show city leaders that change is needed.

Organizers feel the department is not tough enough and they say the simple apology Captain Keith Smith gave for the noose situation is a clear example.

"It's just something he made a mistake and hopefully, and we do need to look at it a lot closer," said HFD Chief Phil Boriskie.

"You've got to establish a precedent and they didn't do it, so what we have in HFD is a leadership problem," said activist Deric Muhammad.

The rally was called 'A Rally Against Hate.'

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