The issue of race has been simmering just beneath the surface of the DeKalb school board controversy.
On Thursday, Georgia’s NAACP, other civil rights activists and some African-American state legislators made it official.
They accused Republican Gov. Nathan Deal of being part of an alleged conspiracy to get rid of black officeholders and deprive black voters of their rights.
“We’ve fought too hard and bled too long to allow our officials to be removed by a dictator,” said Georgia NAACP President Edward DuBose at a rally on the State Capitol steps.
The group blasted the governor for suspending 6 of 9 members of the DeKalb County School Board last Monday, all of them black.
He acted under a 2011 law that allows removal when a school system’s accreditation is threatened.
DeKalb was placed on probation last December by an accrediting agency that called the board dysfunctional.
On Thursday the civil rights activists said the issue isn’t whether the board members deserve to be replaced, but who should have the power to do it.
They support the suspended board members’ lawsuit challenging the removal law as unconstitutional.
“If people need to be removed, they can be removed by recall or they can be removed in 2014 when it’s time to vote again,” said state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler (D-Lithonia).
The activists also blasted fellow African-American lawmakers who support the Governor’s decision.
“How can we complain about him when we have black folks standing there embracing the removal of black officials?” asked state Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta).
One of the black lawmakers who supported the governor called the removal law fair, if not perfect.
“The purpose of the legislation is not to displace school board members,” state Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) told 11 Alive News.
“The purpose of that legislation was to ensure that our school boards took very seriously any threat of losing their accreditation,” he added.
Read more: 11Alive