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Source: Philadelphia Daily News
Date: September 10, 2003
Byline: Ron Goldwyn

Group will be 'raising hell' on Liberty Bell moving day

The Liberty Bell, apparently as secure as ever, will journey 963 feet on Oct. 9 in elaborate ceremony to its new pavilion, where critics feel the the story of slavery is being shortchanged.

Among the greeters at the new $12.9 million Liberty Bell Center near 6th and Chestnut streets that day will be Michael Coard and his Avenging The Ancestors Coalition.

"We will be outside raising hell and inside raising issues," Coard said yesterday at a briefing about the bell and its new home conducted by Independence National Historical Park.

Superintendent Mary Bomar of Independence Park said there would be "no special security for the event." The park will have "the same security we have in place now," she said.

Bomar said the park fared well in a Department of Interior report released Friday that cited lax security at unnamed "icon parks" like Independence. She offered no details on the report but said it was under review.

The briefing, which Bomar called "inclusive," mixed tourism promoters, logistics and event specialists, and critics who have pressured the park for a year to showcase the story of slavery.

Coard said the Avenging coalition has a permit to demonstrate outside the Oct. 9 ceremonies.

Coard found himself figuratively inside and outside yesterday, thanking Bomar for being "open-minded." But he said he was not on hand to "express happiness" but rather to "expose hypocrisy."

The entrance to the new pavilion, he said, needs to be labeled as the site of President George Washington's slave quarters.

"You actually cross what we're calling hallowed ground. We want a permanent marking at the spot," Coard said. "You don't just go there to celebrate; you go there to commiserate."

The Ancestors and a group called the Ad Hoc Historians have met with park officials and won improvements in the way the new pavilion will describe slavery on the site and in the nation.

They want the stories of white and black abolitionists, and Philadelphia's post-Colonial black community, told in more detail. A $4.5 million proposal to spotlight Washington's executive mansion — and slaveholding — languishes for lack of funding.

Security drew hardly a mention yesterday.

"We have never had incidents with security" since Sept. 11, Bomar said. The park is one of 19 sites in the federal system labeled "key assets" or "icon areas" where "security has been at the forefront," she said.

The new pavilion, said Meryl Levitz of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp., will make visitors work a little harder. That's good, she said, because obtaining liberty wasn't so simple either.

"Up until now it has been too easy to do what we call the 'bell and run' experience," she said. "[Now] you get the emotional and historical background you need for a great visit."

 

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