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Financial feud rocks NAACP meeting


MINNEAPOLIS -- If the NAACP is like family, as its leaders often say, then yesterday was a family feud.

A noisy protest by Detroit delegates shut down the legislative session of the group's 86th annual convention. The delegates had been denied voting credentials because of a financial dispute with NAACP headquarters in Baltimore.

Chanting "No justice, no peace," the 21 delegates and supporters drowned out proceedings on the convention floor, forcing adjournment. The convention had been billed as a time of healing after a year of NAACP infighting.

NAACP officials held an emergency meeting with the Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit branch, and later allowed the delegates to cast provisional ballots in the election of a national board member.

Earl T. Shinhoster, acting NAACP executive director, said he expected the convention, which ends tomorrow, to go on today "business as usual. What you saw was democracy in action, no more, no less," he said.

In a sign that the membership is behind the new leadership of Chairwoman Myrlie B. Evers-Williams, Joseph E. Madison was re-elected to the board with 65 percent of the vote in a three-man race.

Mr. Madison, a Washington radio personality, was an outspoken critic of fired Executive Director Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. and former Chairman William F. Gibson.

Mrs. Evers-Williams defeated Dr. Gibson by one vote in a February board election after the veteran chairman was accused of spending NAACP funds extravagantly. The board is to receive an audit of officers' spending today.

L Yesterday's hostility on the convention floor upset members.

"We all regret it," said syndicated columnist Julianne Malveaux, an NAACP life member. "People are frustrated by what I consider an absolute waste of resources. People have to decide: Do they want a viable NAACP or not?"

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People says the 29,000-member Detroit branch, the group's largest, owes $206,000 to the parent group, which is $3.8 million in debt.

In response, Mr. Anthony has sued four national NAACP officials for defamation. Detroit members handed out fliers accusing the national office of trying "extort" the money.

Mr. Anthony, an ally of Dr. Chavis, said: "We want to work with Myrlie Evers-Williams, we looked forward to her fresh leadership, but we're seeing the same old tricks."

Activities off the convention floor, including workshops on affirmative action, voting rights and the Internet, went on yesterday as planned.

Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney, a Democrat whose majority-black Georgia congressional district was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court because race was the primary factor in its construction, made a surprise visit.

Ms. McKinney made an impassioned plea at the voting-rights workshop for blacks to register and vote -- a prime goal of the NAACP.

"We have to get up and stop being the babies of the political process," she said. "We have to unbend our backs and do what it takes to elect people to office who speak for us."

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