NAACP presentation on crime criticized as too little, too late by many delegates

July 15, 1992|By Ginger Thompson | Ginger Thompson,Staff Writer

NASHVILLE, TENN — NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The NAACP national convention held an unprecedented presentation on crime yesterday, but more than half the delegates walked out early, saying they wanted some ideas for solutions, not a repetition of already known statistics.

Under increasing criticism that it is not spending enough attention to inner-city streets, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People organized the workshop to demonstrate its commitment to grass-roots concerns.

Statistics on crime were gathered for the last several months. And with the fanfare of a doctor who has identified a new virus, a committee of the NAACP's national board of directors released its findings in a 37-page pamphlet showing that blacks are disproportionately arrested and victimized by crime.

Crime has reached a "crisis" level in black communities, the national leaders declared.

That failed to impress the delegates. They said that they had diagnosed the breadth of the problem years ago.

"People walked away because we know what the problems are," said Marjorie Ross, of Hermitage, Ark. "We have been in the streets of our communities trying the best way we know how to fight crime, and I was hoping that the NAACP would bring some professionals who could give us advice on better ways."

"Some of us who go out each night, risking our lives to keep our neighborhoods safe should have some input," said John Reed, president of the Cape Cod, Mass., branch of the NAACP. "We should share among each other what types of things have worked and what types of things haven't."

Leroy W. Warren Jr., chairman of the committee that prepared the crime report, said that yesterday's presentation was meant only as a first step in the NAACP's efforts to battle crime.

When asked why it has taken the NAACP so long to take this step, Executive Director Benjamin L. Hooks said, "I can't give you all the reasons, but thank God we're doing it now. Maybe more concretely I should say the problem is not getting better, it's getting worse."

In other activity at the national convention yesterday, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke was awarded the NAACP Chairman's Civil Rights Leadership Award for his efforts to reinvigorate the inner city and improve public education. Mr. Schmoke could not attend the ceremony because he was attending the Democratic National Convention in New York.

However his mother, Irene Bennett Reid, accepted the award of $2,500 and then returned to the NAACP for their youth academic competition called ACT-SO.

Also yesterday, the NAACP and TransAfrica announced a new campaign to protest the government's treatment of Haitian refugees.

A major piece of the campaign will be a demonstration scheduled in front of the White House on Sept. 9, in which NAACP officials warn that participants should expect to be arrested.

Randall Robinson, executive director of TransAfrica, said that his agency has resorted to civil disobedience because other methods of seeking refugee rights for Haitians have fallen on deaf ears.

Since a military coup forced out Haiti's first democratically elected president, Haitians by the hundreds have tried to sail to the United States to seek asylum.

Only 10 percent of the 30,000 refugees have been accepted to asylum. The Bush administration maintains that most of the Haitian boat people were fleeing the nation's economic plight.

In May, President Bush issued an executive order which called for practically all Haitian refugees intercepted by Coast Guard cutters to be summarily returned to Haiti.

"It is an egregious violation of international law," Mr. Randall said. "I have reviewed this issue from many sides and the only explanation I can see is racism."

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