NAACP schedules march in Tallahassee

Fla. governor wants to end affirmative action

March 04, 2000|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

When Florida's General Assembly opens Tuesday, NAACP officials will march in Tallahassee to protest Gov. Jeb Bush's efforts to end affirmative action in the state.

Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Florida lawmakers are expected to attend the rally against Bush's plan, which eliminates race and gender as consideration for state contracts and college admissions at Florida's 10 public universities.

Turnout is questionable, since the protest is being held on Super Tuesday, as well as the 35th anniversary of the March on Selma, but NAACP Director of Communications John C. White said leaders chose Tuesday because it is the opening day of the Florida legislative session.

"This is going to coincide with Bush giving his State of the State message," White said. "We're going to be outside the State Capitol while he's delivering his message."

White would not speculate on the expected turnout Tuesday.

In January, an estimated 47,000 marchers joined the NAACP in South Carolina to protest the flying of the Confederate Flag over the Statehouse there.

"South Carolina was our biggest undertaking so far this year," White said. "I think this [Florida demonstration] represents our continuing activism on the part of the NAACP."

Last month, black college students and hundreds of other critics of Bush's efforts packed Capitol hearing rooms to denounce his "One Florida" proposal.

Bush, brother of GOP presidential candidate George W. Bush, has defended his plan, saying that it will improve diversity by admitting the top 20 percent of each high school senior class into state universities.

Mfume and other leaders insist that it won't increase diversity.

"After 200 years of legal slavery and 100 years of Jim Crown, 30 years of trying to level the playing field is not enough," Mfume said last month in Washington at the 91st annual meeting of the NAACP.

White said he was not aware of any organized effort to transport people from Baltimore to the march -- as was done in January when hundreds of Marylanders joined the South Carolina flag protest.

He said the one-mile march and subsequent rally will be the culmination of several days of events that begin tomorrow with related services at black churches in the Tallahassee area.

On Monday, religious leaders will hold a candlelight prayer vigil at the governor's mansion, White said.

Jamal-Harrison Bryant, NAACP national youth director, said he expects a majority of the march participants to be college students from the Southeast.

Students at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee are helping to organize the march.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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