Community leaders and elected officials gathered Aug. 25 at Israel Baptist Church to express outrage at a political advertisement from the Gregg Bernstein campaign for Baltimore state's attorney.
The television spot uses a photograph from the Dawson family memorial service in 2002. The family – both parents and five children – died when their home was firebombed after reporting drug activity in their neighborhood. DiTanya Madden, a former witness protection coordinator from the State's Attorney's Office, appears in the ad, asserting the Dawsons lost their lives due to "mismanagement" by incumbent Pat Jessamy.
"The recent ad by Bernstein steps over the line," said Maryland Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, D-Baltimore, at the press conference. "It is offensive and unacceptable."
McFadden was joined by Baltimore NAACP Vice President Tessa Hill-Aston, former Baltimore NAACP president Marvin Cheatham, Maryland Sen. Joan Conway, Delegate Curt Anderson, Maryland Sen. Verna Jones, attorney David Allen, and Pam Carter, director of the Dawson Family Save Haven Center. Each demanded the Bernstein ad be pulled from the air.
Hill-Aston said her office has been receiving calls and e-mails expressing distate at the use of the images from the Dawsons' memorial for political gain. She said the Baltimore NAACP was prepared to organize, rally and protest if the demands to pull the ad are not met. Conway called the ad "unconscionable and misleading" and said the Bernstein campaign owes the Dawson family an apology.
The Gregg Bernstein campaign released a statement after the press event. The statement defended the assertions made in the ad. "The Bernstein campaign," it read, "… has no plans to pull any of its ads."