Friday, Jan. 08, 2010

Rally to focus on flag, cigarette tax, census

NAACP chief to speak at King Day at the Dome

Ben Jealous, national president of the NAACP, will be the featured speaker at the annual King Day at the Dome rally.

This year’s event, to be held Jan. 18 on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, will be the 10th rally. The first rally, in 2000, drew roughly 50,000.

The NAACP will use the rally to again call for the removal of the Confederate flag from State House grounds.

Dr. Lonnie Randolph, president of the S.C. NAACP, said the civil rights organization also will use the rally to urge the state to raise its lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax and to urge South Carolina residents to be counted in this year’s census.

No politicians will be allowed to speak at the rally this year. Two years ago, the featured speakers included three Democratic candidates for president – U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards.

Randolph said the rally would have a political element. He wants to urge South Carolinians to vote this year. Randolph noted the 124 seats in the S.C. House are up for election, as are the eight constitutional offices, which include governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and state superintendent of education.

"Let (politicians) know your support comes with a price," Randolph said.

But removing the Confederate flag remains a top priority for the NAACP, which was the driving force behind the first march a decade ago.

The banner was still perched upon the State House dome then. By summer, a legislative compromise had been struck to move the flag to the Confederate Soldier Monument near the foot of the State House steps.

The NAACP has continued an economic boycott of the state, one that Randolph said is working.

He cited the Atlantic Coast Conference’s recent decision to move its postseason baseball tournament elsewhere after awarding it to Myrtle Beach. Randolph said the ACC, SEC and NCAA are honoring the NAACP’s boycott and are not bringing events to South Carolina.

Many state lawmakers and business leaders have said the boycott is harmful at a time when the state’s tourism industry is struggling in a down economy.

"Ten years later we have real good support," Randolph said.

– Leroy Chapman Jr.

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