After sheriff’s comments, NAACP investigating traffic stops in Pickens County

abeam@thestate.comDecember 20, 2013 

Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark

The S.C. NAACP says it is investigating traffic stops conducted by the Pickens County Sheriff’s office after Pickens Sheriff Rick Clark refused to lower his department’s U.S. flag to honor the passing of former South African President Nelson Mandela.

“What happens to young people, particularly African-American males, when they are stopped in Pickens County?” S.C. NAACP president Lonnie Randolph asked during a news conference on Thursday to announce plans for the 2014 King Day at the Dome Rally.

Clark made national headlines when he posted on his Facebook page that he would not lower the U.S. flag at the Pickens County Sheriff’s Department because Mandela was not a U.S. citizen.

“Nelson Mandela did great things for his country and he was a brave man but he was not an AMERICAN!!!!” Clark posted. “The flag should be lowered at our embassy in S. Africa, but not here.”

Of Clark, Randolph said: “A fish wouldn’t get in trouble if he kept his mouth shut. He opened his mouth, and we are going to look into it.”

Clark said Thursday that he would pull the statistics to answer Randolph’s questions.

"We’re going to have some positive numbers," he said. “We have done some great things here as far as minority recruitment. This is kind of odd that they would want to go down that road.”

Randolph made his comments while announcing that William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and one of the architects of North Carolina’s “Moral Monday” protests, will be one of the speakers during the 2014 King Day at the Dome weekend.

The event, organized by the S.C. chapter of the NAACP, takes place to mark Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 20. Barber, who was arrested and convicted of two misdemeanors in connection with a spring protest at the North Carolina Capitol, will speak on Sunday during the event’s kick-off service at Zion Baptist Church.

Randolph said he hopes to announce more speakers soon.

The King Day at the Dome rally often is a magnet for Democratic politicians, especially in an election year. The 2008 event saw speeches from then-Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

But Randolph said he is hesitant to let politicians use the rally as a platform to advance their political careers. He said this year’s rally will focus on “injustice,” specifically South Carolina’s low rankings in health care and education, according to a study by the United Health Foundation.

“South Carolina has nothing for us to celebrate. Absolutely nothing,” Randolph said during a news conference at the state NAACP headquarters. “The highest ranking we have is No. 2, and I think that’s for being the worst drivers in the country.”

Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.

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