- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 2, 2002

Border patrols from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will protest at welcome centers on both South Carolina state lines this weekend an action state authorities promise will be met with a lawsuit.

The protest is aimed at dissuading visitors to South Carolina from spending money there. The NAACP, which has trained dozens of people for the patrols, has called for an economic boycott of the state for two years because a Confederate flag is flown on the Statehouse grounds.

The patrols will be stationed at eight welcome centers along the Georgia and North Carolina borders. They will follow up the protest with a blitz of billboards and media ads from the NAACP, explaining the reasons for the boycott and urging potential tourists to go elsewhere.

State Attorney General Charlie Condon said the border patrols will be an "illegal secondary boycott" in which an action affects uninvolved third parties namely, merchants who have nothing to do with the flying of the Confederate flag.

Mr. Condon's office said the state Supreme Court has ruled that a protest is illegal if the purpose of a protest is to damage the business of another.

"We will take civil action against the NAACP,'' said Robb McBurney, a spokesman for Mr. Condon. "When they take this action tomorrow, then our lawyers will draw up a lawsuit. We are not advocating any law enforcement action; this is a civil suit."

Officers from the state Department of Public Safety will be stationed at each welcome center.

"Should something occur, there will be a response," said Sid Gualden, a spokesman for the department. "There is no reason that they can't be there and there will only be arrests if an incident would occur."

The NAACP insists it has a First Amendment right to the patrols and the boycott. James Gallman, president of the South Carolina NAACP, said he has consulted with the group's lawyers and received the go-ahead.

"They believe that we are on solid legal ground," Mr. Gallman said. "We do not want to be perceived as lawbreakers, as some of us have been identified as. This is an informational protest. Our idea is to remind people that sanctions are in place."

NAACP lawyer Charles Boykin said publicly funded welcome centers and rest areas are fair game for the protests because they are "there for the purpose of giving people information about the state."

"It seems to me that the state has created a limited forum of where information on the state is provided to the public. What the NAACP is going to do is use that forum to provide a different point of view."

The patrols are an extension of the boycott the NAACP imposed Jan. 1, 2000, to protest the state's flying of the Confederate battle flag over the Statehouse in Columbia. A compromise bill in July 2000 moved the flag to a Southern history memorial on Statehouse grounds. But the NAACP maintains the flag is still too prominent.

Nelson Rivers III, the NAACP's national field director, said at the state chapter's January meeting that the boycott will not stop until "the Confederate flag has been put where it should be out of sight, out of mind."

The NAACP passed a resolution in 1991 calling the Confederate flag "an odious blight upon the universe."

Most merchants say the two-year boycott has had a minimal effect on the state's $9.1 billion tourism industry.

But "I think it would be ill-advised for them to continue," Mr. Condon said in January, when word of the border patrols surfaced. "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."


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