- Associated Press - Saturday, May 10, 2014

YORK, Pa. (AP) - Amid the swirl of campaign rhetoric in the Democratic primary for governor, she’s the often nameless, always faceless African American woman killed long ago.

But to the residents of this hardscrabble industrial city south of Harrisburg, Lillie Belle Allen remains a symbol of the violence and racial hatred that raged here in 1969.

“I’ve heard stories,” said Shawn Markel, 23, who lives a few hundred yards from the spot where Allen was gunned down by a white mob a generation before he was born. “The last time I thought about it was when they put up a memorial to her in the park.”

Allen’s slaying resurfaced this spring when Democratic candidate and state treasurer Rob McCord launched a battery of attacks against Tom Wolf, the front-runner among four primary candidates. In a TV ad and on the trail, McCord has accused Wolf of poor judgment for his ties to York Mayor Charles Robertson, one of nine men charged in Allen’s death decades after it occurred.

Wolf, a York business leader, was the mayor’s campaign chairman when Robertson was arrested in 2001. Robertson had been a York beat cop in 1969, and was accused of inciting the white gang members who killed Allen.

Robertson acknowledged he had once been a racist, but insisted he had changed. Still, he abandoned his 2001 re-election bid, and was later acquitted of any crime.

Wolf severed professional ties but the two remained friends.

McCord contends that Wolf was too slow to distance himself from the ex-officer or his actions when the charges came out in 2001. But his attacks prompted backlash from Democrats including U.S Sen. Bob Casey and former Gov. Ed Rendell. York’s current mayor, Kim Bracey, who is African American, appeared in an TV ad in support of Wolf.

Still, McCord has said he is sticking by his ad, even if it costs him votes.

In the neighborhood where the killing occurred, few appear to have noticed the new focus on the incident.

“Who’s the bad guy?” wondered Anthony Mims on Wednesday, admitting he wasn’t paying attention to the election. Mims, 48, said he grew up with Allen’s nephew but that they rarely discussed her death. “We didn’t give it too much thought,” he said.

With 43,000 people, York now has more black and Hispanic and interracial residents than whites.

The melting pot is evident at the infamous intersection where Gay Street meets North Newberry Street just blocks from the city center. White and black folks buy empanadas from a Hispanic woman behind the counter at what was once a cigar store.

“Everybody fits in,” said Markel.

But in the 1960s, this was a solidly white working-class neighborhood in a city under siege - with fire bombings, shootings and police patrolling with dogs and riding in armored vehicles.

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