The Perry Motel owners named in discrimination suite by Attorney Gen. Charlie Crist are calling the charges bogus.
Crist says the owners of the Southern Inn discriminate against black guests. The case is just the latest setback for a community plagued by allegations of racism.
Florida’s attorney general says this motel is continuing southern traditions that should have been left in the past. The state’s civil rights lawsuit claims the Southern Inn’s owners put African American patrons in less desirable rooms, and told one family “coloreds” aren’t allowed in the pool.
The owners wouldn’t talk to us on camera but they say the charges are false and just an effort by the patron who complained to get money out of them.
Meanwhile, the community worries allegations of racism will open old wounds and perpetuate a negative image they’ve been trying to overcome. Three years ago the town made national news when a black lawmaker was refused service in a tavern.
Former Chamber of Commerce chairman Charlton Knowles is angered by the perception that his city is stuck in the 1950s. He points to workshops the Chamber hosted to bring the bitterly divided community together after the tavern incident.
Kevin Kidd with the Boys and Girls Club says racism does exist here among both whites and blacks, just like any community, but they’re trying to change that one child at a time.
Kevin says, “The main thing we’re concerned about here is the kids. Ultimately we got to make a generational change here in Taylor County.”
As the Southern motel owners battle the state in court, community leaders are vowing to keep battling prejudice in Perry.
The attorney for Southern Inn, owner Raj Patel, says his client is not racist and several African American guests who stayed at the inn in the past are writing letters on his behalf.
Lawyer Earl Johnson says there are legal problems with the attorney general’s case, and he may make a motion to have it dismissed.
The Patel’s have 20 days to respond to the attorney general’s charges.