As Pearl Harbor approaches, there’s a display in the lobby of City Hall telling the story of World War II heroes. There’s information on Native Americans who fought in the war, as well as Hispanics. And there’s also information on Dorie Miller, an African-American who received the Navy Cross award for his bravery in Pearl Harbor.
There was a second Dorie Miller poster as part of the display also, but unbeknownst to the group sponsoring it, that second poster was taken down earlier in the week. That poster was created for the display by the Dorie Miller Rifle and Pistol Club.
The City Hall maintenance staff received a complaint about the poster, and removed it immediately,” said Michael J. DeGeorge, a spokesman for Mayor Byron W. Brown. “The materials were returned to the individual and the matter was resolved,” he said.
“It wasn’t resolved,” said Carey Dixon, a spokesman for the Dorie Miller Rifle and Pistol Club.” There was no discussion. It’s an open wound.”
The sponsors of the display Friday objected to the poster and accompanying literature being removed, and to the fact it was removed without their knowledge.
Debbera Ransom, who served as a military police officer from 1976 to 1979, and is founding member of the Johnetta R. Cole AMVETS, which sponsored the display, said she learned the poster and accompanying literature were removed when she walked into City Hall Tuesday and realized the poster was gone. When she asked about it, she said she was told someone – she doesn’t know who – felt the poster and related materials were inappropriate given the level of gun violence in Buffalo and the nation.
“I was stunned anyone would think that,” Ransom said. The display, she and Dixon said, did not encourage violence, but was intended to illustrate the continued significant role of Miller, and his heroic activities during the war.
“I thought this would be a good fit. Let people know there is a club named after this hero,” Ransom said. “We are talking about a war hero.”
Dixon said he was told the display was also removed because City Hall policy prohibits displays promoting private organizations.
But Dixon said the club is a community-based non-profit organization, not a private one. He also said a similar display was put up in City Hall last year without any complaint, Dixon said.
The display featured a sign with Miller’s photo that had the name of the rifle club on it as well as tributes to Miller: “Dorie Miller was America’s first hero of World War II” and “Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.”
The display also included a Dorie Miller fact sheet on the gun club’s letter head as well as a sheet with a schedule of Dorie Miller Rifle and Pistol Club meetings.
The club, the only African-American gun club in Erie County, is dedicated to encouraging individuals to be aware of personal safety and to teaching gun safety, Dixon said. It is also working, he said, to address education, housing, health, welfare, and unemployment issues that increase crime.
“We are trying to rebuild neighborhoods,” he said.