CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The state coordinator for the National Action Network will stay in his role despite controversial statements made about people of Middle Eastern descent, the organization says.
In early April, Elder James Johnson and other community activists held a news conference after a video of North Charleston convenience store employees hitting a shoplifting suspect with a sword and holding him at gunpoint was posted on Facebook.
"They need to go back to their country, where their laws are different from our laws," Johnson said after describing the incident at the Andrew's Discount Market on Dorchester Road. "We're not going to allow them to do that here."
Johnson said the associates should have called the police instead of taking matters into their own hands. He also said that store and those like it were taking advantage of the black community.
"We need to find out if these people here are here illegally," Johnson said. "Because now we understand this store has been bought by foreigners, and they're in the black community, raping the black community."
That week, Johnson issued a correction saying his comment was not meant to stereotype any class of people and that the National Action Network promotes civil rights for all. Rev. Nelson B. Rivers, III, a high-ranking spokesman for the National Action Network, said they were going to review Johnson's status.
At a meeting in New York City last week, NAN's board of directors said it did not support Johnson's comments but that his status will remain unchanged as he continues to resolve issues between the African American community and North Charleston businesses, according to Rivers.
"Because of these sensitive discussions and negotiations the NAN Board will not take any action relative to Elder Johnson until these matters have been resolved," a statement from Rivers reads.
On Monday, Johnson and representatives for other civil rights organizations held another press conference to say they would continue to protest until the Andrew's Discount Market was closed down.
The group said many area stores are taking advantage of people in the community by selling cigarettes to underage buyers, trading for sexual favors and making drug paraphernalia available.
Johnson said he also wanted to send a message to local businesses that if they're profiting from the community, they should also contribute to the community in the form of scholarships, crime and drug prevention programs.