NAACP officials confirmed their support this week for a Missouri "travel advisory" that was recently circulated by a local chapter urging caution due to concerns about civil rights violations.
Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel said national delegates voted last week to adopt the advisory and that the national board will consider ratification in October.
"Individuals traveling in the state are advised to travel with extreme CAUTION," the advisory warns. "Race, gender and color based crimes have a long history in Missouri."
The advisory, which started circulating in June, cites a new state law signed by Republican Gov. Eric Greitens that critics say will make it more difficult to sue for housing or employment discrimination.
It’s the first time the civil rights group has made one state the subject of a warning about discrimination and racist attacks, a spokesman for the national organization said Tuesday, the Kansas City Star reported.
The local NAACP has claimed Missouri's newly enacted law could make it tougher to hold people accountable for harassment and discrimination.
“How do you come to Missouri, run out of gas and find yourself dead in a jail cell when you haven’t broken any laws?” Chapel asked the Kansas City Star, though it was unclear exactly which case Chapel was referring to. “You have violations of civil rights that are happening to people. They’re being pulled over because of their skin color, they’re being beaten up or killed.”
He added: “We are hearing complains at a rate we haven’t heard before.”
Greitens’ office declined to comment on the travel advisory to Fox News on Thursday, but did reiterate the governor’s statement on the new law, called SB 43.
“I’ve met with passionate advocates on both sides of SB 43. I respect all of them. I’ve listened to every side,” the statement said. “I believe we need to bring Missouri’s standards in line with 38 other states and the federal government.”
In the statement, the governor’s office said the new law requires the use of the “motivating factor” standard for employment discrimination cases. It said the “motivating factor” standard is used by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
SB 43 takes effect Aug. 28.
Supporters argue Missouri’s new law will help reduce "frivolous lawsuits" in the state.
The NAACP’s advisory comes after other travel alerts began appearing in recent years in light of police shootings and ahead of immigration legislation in several states, including Texas and Arizona. Missouri’s advisory also cites the most recent attorney general’s report, which showed black drivers in Missouri were 75 percent more likely to be pulled over than white drivers.
“The advisory is for people to be aware, and warn their families and friends and co-workers of what could happen in Missouri,” Chapel said. “People need to be ready, whether it’s bringing bail money with them, or letting relatives know they are traveling through the state.”