NAACP withdraws support of Freedom Train event

January 18, 2010 7:47:27 PM PST
The San Jose chapter of the NAACP withdrew its co-sponsorship and support of Monday morning's 26th annual Freedom Train event in recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

A last-minute donation of $4,500 from the San Jose Police Officers Association saved the Freedom Train from cancellation this year following the loss of corporate sponsorships. However, critics argue that they would have preferred that the funds came from community fund-raising, rather than from an association of officers, some of whom have been accused of mistreatment of minority residents.

The Rev. Jethroe Moore II, president of the NAACP San Jose chapter, told ABC7 that the community could have raised the money if given an opportunity.

"You can't fund right now when we have so many problems and issues with our police here in San Jose; I believe that we need to dialogue and talk and fix our problems first before you throw some money and think there's no more problems," he said.

The Freedom Train organizers, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Santa Clara Valley, disagreed with Moore's comments. It issued a statement saying, "Members of our board began an unsuccessful and extensive outreach for funding to both the African American community and to private corporations. Therefore, accusations that we did not attempt to request funding from the African American community are untrue."

But the controversy did not stop people from participating in the event.

"I support the investigation of the concerns around what some police officers may be doing for people of color, but I don't think you can put an awful light on the whole police organization as a result of that," NAACP member Brigid Van Randall said.

There was no comment Monday from the organization caught in the middle. A sign on the door of the San Jose Police Officers Association office said it was closed for the holiday. Voicemail messages were not returned. POA President George Beattie was off-duty Monday; an attempt to reach him was unsuccessful.

The Freedom Train left Diridon station in downtown San Jose at 9:30 Monday morning, making stops in Palo Alto and San Mateo before reaching its final destination, downtown San Francisco, around 11 a.m.

While the event is over, Moore said discussions will continue by opponents to the SJPOA donation to see if funds can be raised retroactively. If so, they will seek to have the event organizers return the POA money.