NAACP National Chairman Julian Bond addressed an early Saturday morning City Hall civil rights breakfast meeting mistakenly billed briefly as an anti-Prop 54 rally.
Co-sponsored by the NAACP national office and the organization’s California Conference of Branches, the meeting went off without a hitch—and apparently without breaking state law.
Councilmember Kriss Worthington said the gathering, held in the city’s Milvia Street City Hall conference room with some 40 participants, was held to have Bond publicly sign a copy of the 1963 Civil Rights Pledge. Hundreds of Berkeley residents signed the pledge at Civic Center Park in August during celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the 1963 March On Washington.
Worthington said that a week before the Saturday breakfast event, an event organizer sent out an e-mail advertising it as an anti-Prop 54 rally. Proposition 54 is the Ward Connerly-sponsored initiative that would ban the collection of race-based data in the state of California.
“I don’t think we can have an anti-proposition rally at City Hall,” Worthington said. Queried by Worthington, Deputy City Attorney Zach Cowan agreed, advising that use of City Hall facilities to campaign for or against a state proposition was contrary to both state law and state court rulings.
“The original e-mail was a mistake,” Worthington said. “The breakfast meeting was never intended to be an anti-Prop 54 rally. But we had to spend a week straightening it out, sending out a new e-mail and making sure none of the literature mentioned the proposition.”
Aside from signing the Civil Rights Pledge, the impeccably-dressed Bond did talk against Connerly’s measure, telling participants that “I don’t have to go into details; all of you know why it should be opposed,” calling the proposition “insidious” and calling Connerly “the California terminator.”
In a rambling speech, Bond also denounced the gubernatorial recall as part of a “national nullification of the needy” and a “rehearsal for next year’s national elections.” The longtime civil rights activist and former Georgia assemblymember and state senator devoted much of his talk to his ties to Berkeley, revealing that he attended high school in Pennsylvania with former mayor and present Assemblymember Loni Hancock, and adding that he had a sister living in the city. And he saved most of his passion for a plea for statehood for the District of Columbia, where he presently lives.
Mayor Tom Bates also made brief remarks, calling Bond “one of my heroes.”
Bond left the Berkeley event early in order to attend an actual anti-Prop 54 event, keynoting an Oakland rally sponsored by several local labor organizations.