WASHINGTON -- The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has threatened to suspend officers of its branch in Compton, Calif., unless they rescind their endorsement of the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.
On Wednesday, the national office told officials of the NAACP branch in Compton, a largely black community on the outskirts ** of Los Angeles, that they had until today at 3 p.m. EDT, to withdraw their support for Judge Thomas.
If they fail to do so, the national office said, the branch president and all those who signed a resolution supporting the judge, who now sits on the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit, would have to resign.
If officials in the Compton branch refuse to take either action, the national office will begin disciplinary procedures that could lead to the removal or suspension of the dissident officers "for conduct inimical to the best interest" of the NAACP.
Late yesterday afternoon, Royce Esters, president of the Compton branch, said his chapter would not revoke its endorsement of Judge Thomas. The branch members attending a meeting on July 20 voted 32 to 0 in favor. The branch has 200 members.
"I can't understand why they're against this man," Mr. Esters said in a telephone interview. "I think they're getting away from the main problems and talking too much about Clarence Thomas. We should be talking about rehabilitating neighborhoods, creating jobs, doing something about violence and drugs."
The dispute between the national office and the Compton branch is indicative of the divisions among blacks that have surfaced over President Bush's nomination of Judge Thomas.
James Williams, an NAACP spokesman, said that the association has 1,500 branches and that the Compton branch was the only one defying it on the Thomas nomination.
But another chapter, in East St. Louis, reversed its initial support for the nomination after the national group insisted on opposition.