CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- More than 100 NAACP convention delegates protested last night President Kweisi Mfume's decision to close the group's regional office in Detroit.
The protest escalated when convention officials would not let the delegates, including several national board members, carry signs into a hall where Chairwoman Myrlie Evers-Williams was to speak.
The protest leaders withdrew only after Charlotte police threatened to arrest them.
It was the first public display of dissatisfaction with the leadership of Mfume, who took office in February.
The protesters, who represented states from West Virginia to Colorado, accused Mfume of refusing to keep the Detroit office open even after they raised money to cover its overhead. Mfume was not available for comment.
"He should show us enough respect to sit down and discuss it with us," said David Livingstone, president of the Illinois NAACP.
Tom Turner, convention co-chairman and a board member from Detroit, ordered that protesters with signs be barred.
Lee Carothers, a convention center official, said center rules prohibited protest signs in the hall.
But Franklin Breckinridge, a board member from Indiana, charged that convention leaders were trying to squelch dissent. "The NAACP was built on demonstrating with signs," he said angrily.
Evers-Williams made no direct reference to the incident in her speech, but she did say: "We have no time for infighting."
Referring to the series of fires at black churches in the South, she said: "I never cease to be amazed at how forgiving we are. However, I say, as we forgive, let us not forget."
She urged NAACP members to be "firefighters for justice and equality."
Pub Date: 7/08/96