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News Briefs II

Court Sends Mixed Signal on Laws Regarding Cross Burnings

The Baltimore Sun
WASHINGTON

The Supreme Court created new confusion Monday over the power of states to make cross-burning a crime by clearing the way for Florida to prosecute a youth for such an incident.

Four years ago, the court appeared to bar most, if not all, of the government's power to outlaw hate messages in speech or symbolic gestures. Unanimously, the court struck down a St. Paul, Minn., ordinance against cross-burning.

Monday, however, the court voted - with no dissents noted - to reject a constitutional challenge to a Florida law that outlaws the placement of a "flaming cross" on private property without the owner's permission.

The youth involved, Thomas Brandt Davis of Jacksonville, now will be tried in juvenile court for putting a burning cross on the property of a black family. The Florida Supreme Court in June upheld that state's cross-burning law.

The Florida court said that its own state law was broader than the St. Paul ordinance nullified by the Supreme Court. The St. Paul law, it said, was unconstitutional under the First Amendment because it targeted only symbolic messages that would offend specific minority groups.

By contrast, it said, the Florida law simply banned all cross-burning. That made it valid under the First Amendment, because it outlawed only the threat of violence that cross-burning always conveys, the Florida court said.

Serb Forces Help Evacuation

Los Angeles Times
ILIJAS, Bosnia-Herzegovina

About 70 Bosnian Serb army vehicles rolled into this gloomy industrial suburb of Sarajevo on Monday. But unlike countless other military actions over the past four years, the assault was waged with cardboard boxes and dollies instead of guns and bombs.

In an unprecedented effort to calm the chaotic exodus from the Bosnian Serb-populated outskirts of the capital, the military trucks were permitted to cross Bosnian government territory and enter this demilitarized zone, which is fast being sucked empty of its Bosnian Serb inhabitants.

During the war, Ilijas was a fierce center of Bosnian Serb rebellion, with as many as 1,000 men from the town killed on the front line. This time, the military mission was as benign as it was humiliating: collect the possessions of residents desperate to leave before Thursday, when Muslim-Croat federation police move in.

"The civilian truck drivers have been afraid to go, but now drivers have been drafted to go by the military," said Srecko Jankovic, a Bosnian Serb official who helped organized one early-morning convoy. "I started this war defending my people, and I will end it defending my people."

Still, NATO officials said, more than 100 mobilized vehicles did not join the rescue effort for lack of willing drivers, many of whom were afraid of being arrested by Muslim-Croat federation police.

Earlier, the police had set up checkpoints along the route, but NATO and U.N. police said Monday they had demanded their removal.