KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The country’s largest civil rights organization was debating a resolution Tuesday condemning racism within the tea party movement, which NAACP officials have blasted as a group bent on tearing the country apart.
The resolution won’t be released until after a vote, expected Tuesday, during the organization’s annual convention in Kansas City, said Chris Fleming, a spokesman for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The debate is closed to the media.
NAACP President Ben Jealous has chastised the tea party during the convention, saying the movement is creating division in the U.S.
“Whenever you see major progress in this country, you see massive backlash right behind it, and we are in one of those moments like the 1960s,” he said during a phone interview ahead of the convention. “We are seeing massive progress and we are seeing massive backlash. The only way to deal with that type of push-back is to fight back.
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“The reality is that the tea party represents a small and dying demographic in this country, but they are as empowered as they are privileged,” he added.
Tea party activist Alex Poulter, who co-founded a Kansas City-area group called Political Chips, disputed the allegations. He said the movement is made up of a “diverse group of folks who are upset with what is going on with this country.”
Poulter said he has seen no evidence of racism within the movement.
“It’s unfounded but people are running with these accusations like they are true,” he said.
Though not affiliated with either major political party, tea party activists espouse a political philosophy of less government, a free market, lower taxes, individual rights and political activism.
The group has faced occasional claims of racism, most notably in March near the end of the bitter health care debate when Reps. John Lewis, Andre Carson and Emanuel Cleaver said some demonstrators, many of them tea party activists, yelled a racial epithet as the congressmen walked from House office buildings to the Capitol. Cleaver, D-Mo., also said he was spit on.
A white lawmaker said he also heard the epithets, but conservative activists said the lawmakers were lying.
Jealous is urging people to attend a rally that the NAACP, other civil rights organizations and labor groups are planning for Oct. 2 in Washington to remind Congress and President Barack Obama about the challenges facing minority neighborhoods.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.