Web posted Sunday, October 10, 2004
By Timothy Cox | Staff Writer

Outside the Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta, Robert B. Hayes and more than 100 people flying Confederate flags protested against the South Carolina NAACP’s Augusta appearance.

Inside the hotel, the Rev. David Walker and hundreds of NAACP members held meetings and discussed organization business.

Though both groups have been within a few dozen feet of each other for the past three days, there has been no dialogue.

The Rev. Walker, the president of the Aiken NAACP branch, said he would be willing to meet with Mr. Hayes, who is the director of The League of the South, a Confederate heritage group that supports secession.

"I wouldn’t have a problem speaking with someone," the Rev. Walker said.

"I would tell them that their history and heritage is our slavery. I just don’t want it flying on City Hall or the Statehouse grounds," he said, referring to the NAACP’s decision to move its state convention to Augusta because of its four years of economic sanctions against the South Carolina government.

Mr. Hayes said his Abbeville, S.C.-based group would also be willing to meet with NAACP officials while they’re in Augusta.

"We’re always willing to talk, but we would not be willing to compromise or to give up our symbols," he said.

Richard Smith, the chairman of Aiken County’s Sons of Confederate Veterans, said he didn’t think the idea of the two groups talking had been discussed.

But he said they are discussing legal action against Augusta city officials for taking down a Confederate-era flag that flew along the Riverwalk Augusta promenade until a few weeks ago.

Mr. Smith said a meeting could even happen today, before NAACP members adjourn from their 63rd annual state convention.

"It’s a good idea," he said.

© 2004 The Augusta Chronicle

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