GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The president of the Gulfport NAACP accused the port of extortion Thursday. Ruth Story had some harsh words for the port commission board regarding the port's rejection of her group's request for a charitable contribution.
The NAACP branch president used words like despicable, intimidation and dictatorship in taking the port leaders to task. She says her group's donation request was turned down because they refused to sign a letter of intent making them a "partner" with the port.
"It was extremely insulting that the port would resort to, extortion is our view, in response to our request for a very small contribution," said Ruth Story, as she addressed the port commission during the public comment period.
She read from a letter she addressed to the port commission.
"The Gulfport branch NAACP is appalled at the type of strong arm coercion which also implies that our concerns and the integrity of our mission can be bought," she told the commissioners.
Ms. Story said the issue wasn't that the donation request was rejected, but rather that her group was being penalized for refusing to sign a letter of intent that would benefit only the port.
"This is not the meaning of a partnership. It is a dictatorship," she told the board.
Following the meeting, commissioner John Rester told Ms. Story it was not the commission which made the decision. He also promised a response.
"Well, you know, she's entitled to her words. The time for public comment and she made a comment. We will have a follow up comment to the letter at the appropriate time," Rester told WLOX News.
Port Director Jonathan Daniels said the NAACP request came just as the port was revising its donation policy.
"They may have gotten caught up in that. Certainly the way in which we got our point across to them in talking with them, may not have been the best way to do that. And it may have been better to sit back across. There may have been some lines that got crossed during that. Certainly, I'll take responsibility for that since I'm the head of this organization."
Director Daniels added, "We made a decision based on, not what she just talked about, but the timing associated with the request as well. In time, we will be looking at the letter, looking at the formulation of that and creating our response to them. We respect the work that they have done. And as she mentioned, last year, during an event, we did support that event."