Friends founder a 'provocative social activist'

Staff writerNovember 28, 2010 

— Friends of Crystal Mangum founder Douglas “D.J.” Register describes himself as a “provocative social activist.” He lives on disability benefits, works part-time as an activities assistant in a nursing home and volunteers coordinating the Metamorphosis Club, an emotional support group for the mentally ill, “unconventional” and “creatively maladjusted.”

Helping Crystal Mangum file a complaint with the Durham County Department of Social Services over their release of damaging information to pre-trial services officers, Register is litigating his own civil lawsuit against DSS. He sued the agency after it declined to renew his food stamps because his monthly disability payment combined with his part-time earnings exceeded income limits.

Last year, Register was expelled from the N.C. Museum of Natural Science when he protested a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit with a sign that said “Remember Palestinian Oppression,” “Boycott Israel” and “Don’t Buy Dead Sea Scroll Tickets.”

Seven years ago, Register’s complaint led Durham officials to remove two Jewish menorahs from a holiday-tree display outside City Hall. Register said the city should celebrate all religions or none at all; a Christmas tree and Kwanzaa symbols did not bother him because they didn’t appear to be religious.

At the time, Register, 55, was earning a graduate certificate in public health at UNC-Chapel Hill. Three years later, he filed a complaint against Durham Community Technical College, saying it denied him entrance to a pharmacy course because of his age. As in the food stamps case, Register’s chief complaint was he was denied a hearing he thinks the law entitles him to.

“I’m not advocating for myself,” he said. “I’m advocating for everyone.”

Also in 2006, Durham County commissioners removed Register from the county’s Nursing Home Community Advisory Committee after he visited nursing homes unannounced and tried to investigate them without following established procedures; in response, Register called on the commissioners to resign.

“His demeanor and his e-mails were just really disrespectful and rude and made absolutely no sense,” said Michael Page, chairman of the Durham County Board of Commissioners.

jesse.deconto@newsobserver.com or 919-932-8760

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