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Profile: Maurice Bessinger
Maurice Bessinger was a participant or observer in the following events:
A League of the South member at a 2008 political rally. This member is wearing a button supporting the candidacy of Ron Paul (R-TX). The sign behind the supporter calls the NAACP a “racist” organization. [Source: Indyweek]Former Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO), an outspoken opponent of immigration, is the keynote speaker at a fundraiser for a conservative organization, Americans Have Had Enough!, that lists him as its honorary chairman. Tancredo’s appearance is part of his longshot campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. The event is promoted by a neo-Confederate group, the League of the South (LOS), as being its primary sponsor. On its Web site, the LOS announces: “Congressman Tom Tancredo will be our guest. Join us at the State Museum for two hours of vital information, fellowship, and good food.” The site identifies LOS liaison Lourie Salley as the event’s information contact. The room at the museum was rented by neo-Confederate activist Richard T. Hines, a member of LOS and the openly racist Council of Conservative Citizens. Tancredo speaks from a podium draped with a Confederate battle flag, and men dressed in period Confederate battle uniforms are among the audience. Even the catering was done by Piggie Park restaurant chain owner Maurice Bessinger, a prominent LOS member who sells books defending slavery. During his speech, Tancredo speaks sharply about illegal immigrants and what he calls “the cult of multiculturalism.” He also decries those whom he says deny the “Christian principles enshrined in the US Constitution.” At the end of the speech, men in Confederate uniforms sing the Confederate anthem “Dixie,” and Tancredo joins in with the singing, though one reporter later writes that Tancredo seems “confused” by the singing of the song, and leaves the podium either during the song or shortly thereafter. After the event, Tancredo meets and confers with a number of LOS members on the steps of the museum, some of whom are dressed as Confederates. He displays some of the materials being distributed at the fundraiser, including a copy of the The Citizen’s Informer, the Council of Conservative Citizens’ newspaper. Tancredo later denies knowing anything about the history of the newspaper. After Tancredo’s appearance at the event is publicized, Tancredo spokesman Carlos Espinoza denies that the LOS had any connection with the event, calling the organization “a very racist and horrible group that is desperately trying to seem relevant by attaching themselves to an event that they had nothing to do with.” Espinoza goes on to defend neo-Confederates, claiming: “These aren’t racist people who spew out hate. These are just people remembering and cherishing their past.” Five days after the event, a group of 40 black churches joins with the Latino clergy group Confianza to condemn Tancredo’s appearance. Reverend Steven Dewberry says: “To join in singing ‘Dixie,’ to walk into a room that has a huge Confederate flag in it, that should have been his notice to walk out. Their [Confederate] past is our anguish, our slavery, our lynchings.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/12/2006; Southern Poverty Law Center, 12/2006]
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