Bridgeport NAACP offers support for Saturday assembly
JOEL THOMPSON email@example.com
Article created: 07/14/2006 04:45:43 AM EDT
BRIDGEPORT — Members of the Bridgeport chapter of the NAACP offered their support Wednesday for a rally to address racism in Stratford Saturday.
"The Bridgeport branch voted unanimously to support the rally," said Scot X. Esdaile, president of the Connecticut branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "We have strong community support."
Esdaile spoke to the media after a lengthy closed-door session at Messiah Baptist Church to plan the rally that will focus on racial problems. The rally will take place at noon Saturday at Stratford Town Hall. Others who attended the session deferred comment to Esdaile.
The rally was initially planned by Stratford Councilman Alvin O'Neal, D-2, who is black. O'Neal has charged he and Titasheen Mitchell, 15, also black, were victims of excessive force when they were arrested March 21 by David Gugliotti, a white police officer.
Gugliotti was cleared of the charge last month by a police investigation.
Though the incident involving O'Neal sparked the rally, Esdaile said the event will focus on what is perceived by black leaders to be a larger racial problem in Stratford.
"We understand there is an ongoing problem in Stratford, not a black or white problem, but a racial problem that also exists in the state," Esdaile said.
He said the rally will be lead by the Rev. Johnny Gamble, pastor at Friendship Baptist Church, in Stratford, and the Rev. James Morton, associate pastor at the First Baptist Church of Stratford.
"We'll let everyone know there is a problem. The only way to fix something is first to face it," Gamble said. "We'll try to bring Stratford together as a town for all people."
As a starting point, Gamble said he supports the plan by Stratford's mayor, James R. Miron, to provide diversity training for all town employees, including police officers and firefighters.
Gamble said he and Morton will meet today to set an agenda for the rally.
Though Esdaile said members of the Bridgeport NAACP would attend the rally, Carolyn Nah, its president, said she will be away. Nah said she will attend the NAACP national convention in Washington D.C. this weekend.
Nah said O'Neal's decision not to attend the rally on the advice of his lawyer also factored into her choice not to go.
But, she said members of her chapter "can attend the rally of their own free will."