COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ The NAACP on Friday announced plans to protest an event marking the 150th anniversary of South Carolina's secession from the Union, decrying it as a celebration of slavery.
Lonnie Randolph, the president of the state's chapter of the civil rights organization, said the signing of the Ordinance of Secession should not be celebrated, so it will lead a Dec. 20 protest and march outside the planned Secession Gala in Charleston.
The gala is separate from activities planned by the National Park Service and other groups to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People doesn't mind events observing Civil War anniversaries, but a gala is disrespectful, Randolph said.
He noted that Tuesday marked the 69th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor: “We don't observe that as a celebration.''
He also likened it to a gala celebrating Hitler's anti-Semitic edicts, the Nazis' rounding up of Jews bound for death camps, or the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.
Sons of Confederate Veterans commander Mark Simpson said the NAACP has a right to protest. He contends that the event commemorates a push for states' rights that brought the country to war.
“We have no animosity toward that group or toward anyone,'' Simpson said.
The gala is staged by the Confederate Heritage Trust, which includes Sons of Confederate Veterans chapters.
“The secession of South Carolina was really the central focal point that started the secession of the states,'' he said. “In the minds of certain groups or certain people in America, it's politically incorrect. To us it's part of our nature and our culture and our heritage. I don't really get upset about it or pay attention to the naysayers.''
The NAACP's Randolph agreed the Civil War was about states' rights.
“The states wanted the right to buy and sell human cargo, and that human cargo happened to be people that looked primarily like we do, and even some of us here have ancestors who fell into the ugly, ugly claws of that system,'' he said.
The planned protest is set to start on the afternoon of Dec. 20 with picketing at hotels in downtown Charleston where gala attendees are staying. The candlelight vigil will start at 4:30 p.m. outside Gaillard Municipal Auditorium, followed by a one-mile march to Morris Brown AME Church. A meeting there will include a screening of parts of the 1915 silent film “The Birth of a Nation,'' considered a racist portrayal of the Reconstruction era after the Civil War.