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Civil Rights Commission to consider racism hearing request

Posted: Sunday, April 01, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The U.S. Civil Rights Commission's Alaska advisory committee will consider public inquiries on racial discrimination in the state when it meets April 26 in Anchorage.

Such hearings, requested by the Alaska Federation of Natives, will probably be approved, according to committee chairman Gilbert Gutierrez of Valdez.

The advisory committee has 14 members from all over Alaska.

The hearings requested last week by AFN president Julie Kitka require a 30-day advance public notice and could be scheduled by late May, Gutierrez said.

The AFN -- spurred by a series of crimes including rape, murder and paint ball assaults against Alaska Natives -- asked the commission to sponsor a series of hearings so victims of discrimination can describe their experiences and the effects of racism on their lives.

A letter of response to Kitka from a commission staff member in Los Angeles ignores the request for hearings but says she can have 15 minutes on the agenda of the April 26 advisory committee meeting.

''We don't think the commission will do public hearings,'' AFN spokesman John Tetpon told the Anchorage Daily News. If it doesn't, the AFN may hold hearings itself, he said.

But Gutierrez said the letter is not a rejection. He fully expects the committee will vote for hearings, he said.

Recent racist incidents have been ''pretty glaring,'' Gutierrez said. ''It's been out in the public here for a long while. It's important that we do something at this point in time to alleviate these kinds of pressures.''

The April 26 meeting, to be held at the Sheraton Anchorage Hotel, is open to the public.



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