Originally created 10/03/04

NAACP to meet in Augusta



Members of the South Carolina branch of the NAACP are coming to Augusta this week because of a boycott of their home state that they don't plan to end anytime soon.

They will be in Augusta from Thursday to Oct. 10, in keeping with the group's ongoing economic sanctions against the state because a Confederate flag continues to fly on Statehouse grounds in Columbia.

Members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People consider the flag racially offensive. It served as the official Confederate flag from May 1, 1863, to March 4, 1865.

This year's theme is The Race Is On, because of the group's emphasis on education and economic and political empowerment.

Dwight James, a spokesman with the NAACP, said the sanctions will continue indefinitely.

"Until the conditions of the resolution are met, the sanctions will continue," he said.

The national organization has urged the South Carolina government to refrain from flying the controversial flag.

Mr. James also said South Carolina needs a mind-set "where fairness prevails more often."

The sanctions are designed to discourage conventions and other revenue- producing functions in the Palmetto State, NAACP officials say.

But the Augusta move has spurred more controversy.

On Sept. 15, Mayor Bob Young ordered the removal of a Confederate flag that flew along Riverwalk Augusta, minutes from the convention site. According to a city news release, the flag removal was requested by the Augusta NAACP branch.

Dr. Charles Smith, Augusta branch president, reiterated the comments he made when the flag was removed, that the mayor, commissioners and the NAACP want unity.

"We don't think the flag should be a stumbling block to bringing us together," he said.

The flag's removal has generated reaction from some proponents who consider the flag a symbol of Southern heritage and pride. Some members of the group reportedly plan to protest outside Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta during the convention.

The Rev. David Walker, the president of the Aiken NAACP branch, said members are unaffected by protesters.

"They have the constitutional right to peaceful assembly. We'll take care of our NAACP convention business," he said.

The 63rd annual event is expected to attract thousands of visitors from across South Carolina and generate more than $1 million in tourism dollars for Augusta, NAACP officials said.

Since 2000, the conference has been held in Charlotte, N.C., and Savannah, Ga.

What's Next: The South Carolina branch of the NAACP will have its annual state convention Thursday through Oct. 10 at Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta.

Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or tim.cox@augustachronicle.com.