Racially motivated attack reported

Criminal charges are reportedly pending against eight people who are said to have assaulted a local African American man in Avalon last Saturday night.

Paul L. Morris Sr. said that he was shocked by the hate he could sense from the group inside the Jackman Inn. Morris said that he had stopped by the local bar to drop off a thank you note for the Jackman’s kitchen manager, who had prepared food recently for a graduation party held for Morris’s son.

Jackman manager Jackie Scanlon said that the group of men and women wore clothing and had insignia that identified at least some of them as being affiliated with the statewide “White Nationalist” group Keystone United, formerly known as the Keystone State Skinheads.

The group is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, as “one of the largest and most active single-state racist skinhead crews in the country.”

Morris said that he was able to identify one of the men who assaulted him from a group photo posted on the Keystone United Web site, and Avalon Mayor Tom Lloyd confirmed that at least one of the men apprehended by police was wearing a t-shirt that indicated an affiliation with a hate group.

The group stood out to the regulars at the Jackman, Scanlon said, which has a rule barring anyone wearing patches or colors that identify them as part of a gang or hate group. She said that an inexperienced bartender working Saturday night did not ask them to leave until they began harrassing Morris with racial slurs.

Morris said there was little doubt that members of the group “had the look” of skinheads, but, “you can’t judge a book by the cover,” so he just walked past them to meet the kitchen manager, at which point the two of them went out onto the bar’s back deck so that the kitchen manager could smoke a cigarette.

Morris said that members of the group made several vulgar comments to him as he was out on the deck, and he decided it would be best to leave. As he came back into the bar, however, he said that he was hit by one of the group members. Morris, who sustained facial injuries but did not seek medical attention, said that his glasses were knocked off his face. He reported that as he leaned over to pick them up from the floor, he was jumped by the entire group, males and females. Scanlon said that the kitchen manager attempted to pull people off Morris, and also was assaulted. When someone announced that the police had been called, the group ran out of the bar, using the back exit and running around the side of the building, Scanlon and Morris said.
Morris said that one of the men assaulting him identified himself as a “Neo-Nazi,” and said that “they” intended to “eradicate” people of color.

Scanlon said that she has a list of at least 10 people who were present and reported the events the same way.

Avalon Police Chief Tom Kokoski is on vacation this week, but Mayor Tom Lloyd said Wednesday that while members of the group were apprehended Saturday night, no arrests were made at that time. He said that citations had been filed that day against eight people involved in the assault. As of Thursday morning, those citations had not been filed with the District Court, according to court staff. Avalon Police Sgt. Chris Brown, who is in charge of the department during Kokoski’s absence, said that he was not permitted to speak to the media about the incident, but added that the citations may have been prepared and not yet filed with the court.

Morris is still reeling from the incident. He said that he graduated from Avonworth High School as one of only two black students in his class, and that he has never felt prejudice from his local neighbors.

“My community’s always embraced me,” he said. As for the assault, “It felt different. It was hate,” he said.