- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2002

The South Carolina chapter of the NAACP will post "border patrols" at the state lines in hopes of discouraging visitors from spending money in the state.
The patrols, to begin within 30 days, are an extension of the boycott the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People imposed Jan. 1, 2000, to protest the state's flying of the Confederate battle flag over the Statehouse.
The flag was removed in July 2000 and placed at a Confederate memorial at the Statehouse in Columbia.
Volunteers will be posted at various spots along the borders, "people with signs and handouts, asking people not to spend their money in South Carolina," said Dwight James, executive director of the state branch of the NAACP.
The patrols and the boycott will continue until the Confederate banner is removed from Statehouse grounds, Mr. James said. The NAACP also will begin an advertising campaign with billboards, fliers, broadcast spots and in newspapers.
"Our objective is to make sure that our message is out there, and we will use all of the resources available to us," Mr. James said. "The coverage of the borders will not be constant, and it may rotate in terms of when we cover certain areas, but several primary entry points to the state will be covered frequently."
He declined to elaborate on the location of the patrols, but state officials believe that the state's more than 20 welcome centers are the likeliest targets.
State law-enforcement officials said yesterday they will ask for a meeting with state NAACP leaders to discuss the protests. Attorney General Charlie Condon held out the possibility of legal action if the patrols are carried out.
"I think it would be ill-advised for them to continue," Mr. Condon said. "They are targeting innocent businesses, and there is a body of case law prohibiting that. I think it is time for someone to stand up for South Carolina."
The two-year boycott has had a minimal effect on the state's $9.1 billion tourism industry, and many groups that had adhered to the NAACP's boycott request have returned since the flag was removed from the Statehouse dome. But with the general malaise in tourism since September 11, even small actions could have big effects, tourism officials said.
"In everyone's mind, this issue was settled," said Martha Hunn, chief executive officer for the Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association. "There were people at the table acting for the NAACP's best interests."
Any tourism downturn would be felt first by entry-level workers, who tend to be minorities, she added.
"We have many cultures and races that make their living here at hotels and restaurants," Miss Hunn said. "So if there is an impact, many places would not hire back as many people as they had planned."
Any strike could damage South Carolina's top industry while the state has more pressing concerns, said Tom Sponseller, president of the Hospitality Association of South Carolina.
"There are bigger issues for the NAACP," Mr. Sponseller said. "Like how to make education better, how to help people get in a better financial position. This is a group that can focus on things that will put people in a better place."
South Carolinians thought the flag issue settled because the national office of the NAACP had declared in a Jan. 1, 2000, press release that the boycott's goal was "to force the state to stop flying the Confederate battle flag over its Capitol."
The statement said, "The NAACP's economic strategy seeks to have its members and supporters, along with corporations, religious and civic organizations, postpone or relocate vacations, family reunions, meetings, conventions or workshops in South Carolina until the flag is removed from atop the Statehouse, removed from within the House and Senate Chambers and relegated to a place of historical context only."
Lawmakers in May 2000 voted to remove the flag from atop the Capitol dome and relocate it to a Confederate memorial in front of the Statehouse.
Representatives from the national NAACP office did not return calls.
Gov. Jim Hodges who did not return calls seeking comment gave a brief address before signing the legislative action into law, saying, "Today, the debate over the Confederate flag above the Capitol passes into South Carolina history."
To amend that action to remove the flag altogether would require a two-thirds vote, which is virtually impossible in a legislature where, according to one lawmaker, they "would have a hard time getting a two-thirds vote on when to take lunch."
State Rep. J. Todd Rutherford, a black Democrat, cautioned his colleagues when the compromise was passed that it might not be enough.
"There are some people who have stopped following the boycott," Mr. Rutherford reiterated yesterday. "Some people are tired of fighting. But that's no reason for the NAACP to give up."
He said that any measure calling for the removal of the flag "would not even make it out of committee."
Mr. James of the NAACP promised that the boycott will not relent until the flag is gone.
"The conditions that were spelled out still remain," Mr. James said. "We believe that we are correcting an injustice and will continue until we win."

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