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Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Protesters Rally Against Confederate Flag; NAACP Executive Director Discusses Economic SanctionsAired January 15, 2001 - 1:13 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: This is the first year that the state of South Carolina is recognizing Martin Luther King Day as a state holiday. That is being overshadowed, however, by the continuing controversy over the Confederate flag.
CNN's Brian Cabell joins us now from the statehouse in Columbia with more there -- Brian.
BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE) time that South Carolina has celebrated the King holiday was all part of a compromise worked out in legislature last session, mainly that there would be a Martin Luther King holiday, a Confederate memorial holiday.
And also most notably, they moved the flag from the top of the State Capitol, the Confederate battle flag, down to a spot in front of the Capitol.
It's a compromise not everybody was happy with. We talked to one of the flag supporters just a little while ago, and he says the battle still goes on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER DAVENPORT, "SAVE OUR FLAG": They have taken it down off the Statehouse, but thousands more have sprung up. As you drive through the countryside, you see it springing up all over.
And so they might have accomplished what they are trying to do here. I -- who can say? The politicians are very changeable, and they listen to the votes, more than logic and reason.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABELL: NAACP is not happy with the compromise at all, either.
With me right now, Dwight James, of the NAACP.
Mr. James, is the battle still going on over the flag that stands right behind you?
DWIGHT JAMES, EXECUTIVE DIR., NAACP: Absolutely. The goal that the NAACP has set, of removing the flag from all positions of sovereignty, has not been met. So we are continuing our efforts. We are continuing the economic sanctions. And we are continuing to tell the world that all is not right in South Carolina.
CABELL: Economic sanctions, we are told by the tourism officials, are diminishing in effectiveness. Is it true?
JAMES: Not by our camp. We are continuing to get reports of cancellations, of people that don't even consider South Carolina as a destination anymore. So we believe the sanctions are continuing to be effective, and will continue to impact that industry in South Carolina.
CABELL: We are told that the New York Knicks, for one, had their training camp in Charleston this last year. That's a violation of the boycott, isn't it?
JAMES: It is. And we were disappointed that that happened. But we will continue to dialogue with the Knicks organization to try make them understand what the real issues are in South Carolina.
CABELL: We had almost 50,000 people out here last year. This year, 5,000 might be a generous estimate. Are you disappointed?
JAMES: Well, we had, probably by our count, about 5,500 here today. I think it's sent a very strong message that we need to deal with this issue, settle it. The flag belongs in a position of historical significance in a museum. And I think that would help us resolve, at least, this part of the conflict between blacks and whites in South Carolina.
CABELL: The battle over the flag seems to be spreading across the South. Georgia and Mississippi may be next.
JAMES: Absolutely. There's a lot of people who understand that this flag represents slavery, it represents oppression, and it really should not be a part of any sovereign government in the United States in these days and times.
CABELL: The fact we have a Martin Luther King holiday in South Carolina, finally, that certainly is a clear-cut victory for you.
JAMES: It is a victory. And we do recognize that. You know, we do have some concerns as to how that legislation was passed, because everything seems to be conditional in terms of gains in South Carolina. And it goes back to the old issue of respect. And that's why it's important that we're here today for dignity day.
CABELL: Thank you very much, Dwight James, from the NAACP.
So, what we have here is both a celebration of King Day today, but also a protest, because the flag, as I say, still stands here right in front of the Capitol.
I'm Brian Cabell, CNN, live in Columbia, South Carolina.
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