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DALLAS Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is the target of a federal investigation, got a big boost Sunday from local religious and community leaders.

The sanctuary at St. Luke Community United Methodist Church was filled with nearly 800 supporters some waving flags, others carrying signs all demanding justice for John and honoring his three decades of public service.

Price himself made an unexpected appearance at the three-hour rally, and he received a standing ovation. He has not previously taken part in similar events.

Price did not address the crowd, but others spoke on his behalf. They are angry at the FBI and say the government is unfairly targeting minority politicians.

Many people think, 'Oh, it's the FBI. It must be correct. He must have done something. Where there's smoke there's fire.' They've created the smoke. They lit the fire, said Price supporter Michael Dyson. So let's wait and reserve judgment.

Price has been one of Dallas County's most powerful Democratic politicians for more than a quarter of a century.

This was the second large-scale rally on his behalf in the past month, but this time it wasn't only about boosting his image.

You pray for him on your knees, Dyson urged the crowd. But right now I want you to dig in your pocket; I want you to open up the pocketbooks; I want you to give money!

Donations were solicited for Price's legal fund, and dozens of people filled collection baskets.

Years ago, John Wiley Price forced the City of Dallas to share power with minorities. Many people at the rally view the federal investigation as the latest assault in that ongoing battle.

This issue is about power; let us not be confused! said former City Council member Diane Ragsdale.

The FBI has said that the agency does not base its investigations on race. But it also has not said why it's looking into John Wiley Price, who has not been charged with any crime now three weeks after agents staged a series of raids to collect evidence.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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