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It was Councilor Hyslop complaining about discrimination three years ago

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published April 18. 2012 4:00AM   Updated April 18. 2012 6:56AM

At a press conference in 2009, black City Councilor Wade Hyslop complained about being locked out of his party's campaign headquarters, turned away at the door, while his fellow candidates for council, all white, were meeting inside without him.

I wrote sympathetically then about the injustice Hyslop laid claim to, reporting that he said he had never been so humiliated and so hurt. He likened the experience to what some blacks experienced in the South in the 1960s.

"We prided ourselves that it didn't happen here," Hyslop said at the press conference called to acknowledge the discrimination.

"I found myself on the short end of being excluded. ... It's me today, but it could be you tomorrow. We need to watch history."

Indeed, discrimination appears to be alive and stirring in New London.

It's a point both the local and state chapters of the NAACP, the nation's oldest civil rights organization, have been trying hard to make here in recent months, complaining about racial profiling, police mistreatment of minorities, the planting of drugs on a black man and the firing of the first black firefighter hired by the city in more than 30 years.

And so I was surprised, after the NAACP directed some of these complaints to the City Council Monday, that Councilor Hyslop, in essence, locked the door and told them to go away.

"No comment," the city councilor, who is also minister of the Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, thundered back in his best pulpit voice, directing his rebuff directly at the NAACP.

"God has not given me a spirit of fear," Hyslop bellowed, responding, with a big no, to suggestions that he finally explain why he supported Mayor Finizio's firing of the black firefighter.

It is interesting that the reverend apparently finds discrimination a lot less troubling when someone else is alleging it, not him.

Curiously, Hyslop was one of the few councilors who did not take the opportunity to respond in any detailed way to the NAACP remarks at Monday's meeting.

As troubling, I thought, was the behavior of former Mayor Jane Glover, currently city chief administrative officer and the highest paid assistant to Mayor Finizio. Glover, who is black, was in City Hall Monday night but chose not to come into the council chambers to hear the NAACP remarks.

Instead, Glover popped into the council chambers once or twice to exchange signals from across the room with Hyslop.

It seems especially distressing that two people who have been such prominent black leaders in the city for so long would be so disrespectful to representatives of the NAACP. Never mind that the lack of integration in the city fire department occurred over the course of their combined careers.

Arrogant was a word NAACP officials used in January to describe Finizio, Glover and Hyslop, after meeting with them at City Hall.

Another prominent black political leader in New London, state Rep. Ernie Hewett, has taken a completely different tack in all this, treating the NAACP complaints seriously.

Hewett says the black firefighter, recruit Al Mayo, was railroaded. Hewett requested and got an investigation into the state firefighting academy, where the complaints against Mayo originated.

A state official has confirmed in a public hearing that the investigation has turned up some problems at the academy, where Mayo, the only black recruit in his class, was accused, among other things, of having too much enthusiasm.

Hewett, to his great credit, took seriously the complaints of discrimination and made sure they were investigated.

I ended a column in 2009 about Hyslop's complaints that he was locked out by quoting him. The city council candidate said the incident wasn't about him but about including everyone in a democracy.

"If you allow evil to take over our government," he said then, "you deserve what you get."

This is the opinion of David Collins.

David Collins

Town News

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