At Annual Event, SCLC Calls For Collaboration With Black Lives Matter

Charles Steele Jr., national president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference says Confederate symbols represent “treason” and need to be removed from public spaces, including from the Mississippi state flag, at a news conference at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, July 1, 2015. Steele says Confederate names should be taken off of schools and … Continued

Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press

A group born out of the civil rights movement is trying to figure out how it can support a new generation of protesters.

At the annual convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta, President Charles Steele Jr. addressed the issue in his opening speech.

“It was entitled ‘What Would Dr. King Do If He Was Living Here Today?’” Steele said. “First thing I said is he would work with Black Lives Matter.”

Though, that is easier said than done. Steele said, the decentralized structure of the Black Lives Matter movement has made collaboration difficult.

Still, he thinks the protesters of today could learn from the methods of his group, which Martin Luther King Jr. established.

“If law enforcement mistreated you, you stood there and took it,” Steele said, citing an example. “And that was the weapon of peace and nonviolence.”

Methods have been a source of conflict between the old and new movements.

Andrew Young, a former leader of the SCLC, drew criticism recently for calling some protesters “unlovable brats.” He has since apologized.

At the opening night, the SCLC also announced it is developing a program to improve relations between police officers and the communities they work in.

Steele said a former St. Louis police captain is leading the program. It will use retired officers and military veterans to train community leaders in conflict management.

The pilot program is scheduled to launch in Atlanta this fall.  

The SCLC’s convention lasts through the weekend. The group expects more than a thousand to attend.