Topher Sanders, Montgomery Advertiser, June 5, 2005
About 47 people, some carrying picket signs and waving Confederate flags, participated in a nonviolent protest outside the Southern Poverty Law Center on Saturday.
Members of the Council of the Conservative Citizens quietly walked up and down the 400 block of Washington Avenue.
The organization is on the Law Center’s 2004 list of active hate groups.
The group’s Web site lists several principles that members must pledge to before joining, among them: opposing homosexuality and interracial relationships, favoring states’ rights and acknowledging the United States is a Christian country and that its people are Christian and that its leaders must reflect that.
One protestor who held a sign with the question, “Where’s the Poverty” refused to explain its meaning, saying he didn’t speak to “communist media.”
Other protesters were more forthcoming.
“I’ll tell you what that sign means,” said group member Robert White of Pleasant Grove. “It means that a whole lot of wealth is being displayed here to me,” he said gesturing to the building that houses the Law Center.
Leaders of the organization agree with its membership.
“It’s just a civil right’s hustle,” said 64-year-old Gordon Baum, CEO of the council and organizer of the protest. “(Morris Dees, the founder and chief trial counsel for the Law Center) makes up all this bogeyman stuff to make money.”
Mark Potok, with the Law Center, said the council has long been considered a hate group.
“When they tell you they are not racist, they are lying,” Potok said. “They are racist to the core.”
One protester, dressed in a Confederate flag print button-up shirt and a Confederate flag ball cap, admitted some members may be extreme.
“There are some in this organization that are extreme, but I am not,” said 37-year-old Benny Grimes, who said he joined the group for its political beliefs. “I just think that things should be equal for all races. If one group gets some type of aid, I think white people should as well. I just think everybody should get a fair shake.”
Council members were in the city for their annual conference, which ended Saturday.