COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina's attorney general threatened Monday to sue the NAACP if the civil rights group stages protests along the state's highways next month.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People plans the protests as part of an ongoing economic boycott over the state's display of the Confederate flag on the Statehouse grounds.
"I am drawing the line in the sand," state Attorney General Charlie Condon said. "If the NAACP uses South Carolina's rest stops and welcome centers to urge visitors not to buy in South Carolina or to stage demonstrations or protests, I will take legal action."
The Confederate flag formerly flew atop South Carolina's Capitol dome and in House and Senate chambers. It now flies at the Confederate Soldier Monument.
Condon said the state Supreme Court has ruled rest stop protests are illegal when the object is to damage the business of another. He also argued that a welcome center is a nonpublic forum reserved for greeting visitors and it would be unlawful to use it to discourage tourism.
But state NAACP executive director Dwight James said the group's legal advisers believe members are well within their constitutional rights to protest at the welcome centers. He said the "border patrols" will not be a disruption to motorists or business.
"They are being proposed as a means to ensure the public is aware that the Confederate flag still flies at the Capitol in South Carolina and to tell motorists that the economic sanctions placed on South Carolina that started in January 2000 are still in effect," he said.
Law enforcement would not be used to prevent the protests, Condon said.
The attorney general postponed a meeting with NAACP leaders Thursday to attend the funeral of a slain Charleston police officer. On Friday, the organization decided not to meet with him.