NAACP leader seeks to counter urban strife
The nation's largest civil rights organization "will not stand idly by" and allow American inner cities to be destroyed by "a long, hot summer of Miamis and Fort Waynes."
So says Benjamin Hooks, executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Expressing concern "over the sprouting of racial incidents" in various cities around the nation, Mr. Hooks said the NAACP will use its 71st national convention June 29-July 4 at Miami Beach as a public forum on "curtailing" racial violence similar to riots of the late 1960s.
In a telephone interview, he denounced "racial tensions" that caused rioting in the Liberty City community of Miami May 17-19 and the shooting of Vernon Jordan, president of the National Urban League, May 29 in Fort Wayne, Ind.
The NAACP has dispatched its own task force in Miami, headed by national associate director Howard Henderson, to develop a Liberty City revitalization program. This task force will become a permanent local "urban office" to work with local agencies -- governmental and community-based -- to return the area to "normal," Mr. Hooks said.
He dispelled any doubt that the NAACP would fear to come to Miami because of violence that caused 14 fatalities, 300 injures, 1,000 arrests, and an estimated
The NAACP will use the convention as a workshop to plan the revival of inner-city Miami. The nation's largest civil rights organization has invited the four major presidential hopefuls and all members "whom we can locate" of the 1967-68 National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission) to participate in its convention program.
"We want them to meet with us in the light of their report, to assess national commitment and achievement of goals they set, to check the validity of their recommendations in relation to the 1980s, and the help forumulate a new statement and plan for action at the convention," Mr. Hooks said.
"We plan to develop a blueprint for bringing racial peace not only to Miami, but to other strife-torn cities throughout the nation," he explained.
to achieve these goals, Mr. Hooks said, the NAACP has requested that:
* President Carter establish a national advisory commission to implement the recommendations of the Kerner Commission and to monitor their implementation in both the private and public sectors.
* US Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti investigate grievances and complaints of "police abuse and discriminatory law enforcement" and offer sensitivity training to police departments in "tinder box" urban areas.
In addition, the NAACP has called on mayors and police chiefs of 40 cities "where there may be strife" to act. Mayors are asked to set up grievances committees to handle complaints against public agencies and to establish neighborhood task forces with direct access to the office of mayor. Police chiefs are requested to set guidelines for officers on "proper use of firearms" in making arrests and for sensitivity in dealing with suspects. They also are asked to establish police-civilian review boards.
An example "of the danger blacks face" is the Jordan shooting, said Mr. Hooks , adding: "No civil rights leader is really safe as long as there are forces in this country willing to resort to violence against those persons, white or black , who seek fair treatment of others."