The head of the Georgia NAACP is among those calling Donald Trump an “illegitimate president.”
The Rev. Dr. Francys Johnson also labeled Trump the country’s “divider in chief” while talking to a reporter at Dorchester Academy during the NAACP’s first state meeting of 2017.
“The Georgia NAACP is diametrically opposed to just about everything Donald Trump stands for,” Johnson said. “He has lambasted groups of people based on their race, based on their ethnicity and based on their physical abilities or lack thereof. He is vulgar, and he is illegitimate as president.”
Johnson said Trump was not a legitimate president because he was “elected by a minority of voters in this country in an unfair process that we believe was tainted by foreign governments, as well as by people who turned their backs on their own values.”
A Statesboro attorney, pastor and Georgia Southern graduate, Johnson has been president of the Georgia NAACP since 2013.
He was one of some 400 members of the civil rights organization who gathered in Liberty County for two days of training and discussion of issues ranging from education and economic opportunity to criminal justice reform.
In all, NAACP members met for more than 14 hours over the course of two days at both Dorchester Academy, where civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others gathered in 1965 to plan the famed March on Birmingham, and the Liberty County Performing Arts Center.
The weekend brought together a diverse group, ranging from Georgia Supreme Court Judge Michael Boggs and Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods to state Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, and state Sen. Dr. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah.
And while much of the state NAACP’s aims focus on Georgia - the organization wants a moratorium on charter schools and opposed Gov. Nathan Deal’s failed attempt to create Opportunity School Districts - the newly-elected president and the divided nation that put him in office was clearly on the group’s radar.
But Johnson dismissed the idea that groups such as the NAACP and others who question Trump’s legitimacy are divisive.
“What’s dividing America is to pit people against each other, to mock the disabled, to be vulgar as it relates to women, to engage in fraud against this country in the form of promoting a university aimed at simply bilking students out of their money,” Johnson said. “The real division in this country is coming from the divider in chief who happened to get elected president of the United States.”
Williams launched into a fiery sermon when he spoke to NAACP members Saturday. His speech, while it didn’t start by making the new U.S. president a focal point, got around to Trump eventually.
“It’s easy to be an advocate now,” Williams said, lamenting those who had become too comfortable to get involved in civil rights. “So everybody should be one.”
A member of the NAACP for 57 years, Williams said he was arrested 17 times for his political activism, which included participation in the march from Selma to Montgomery - “the real march, not the re-enactment,” he said.
Williams said two of the worst days of his life were 9/11 and 11/9 – a reference to both the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the Nov. 9 election of Donald Trump. Williams said he was so depressed watching coverage of the election he went to bed early.
“This was something I’d never done, going to bed early on election night, and I played like Santa Claus was still around and was going to leave me a present,” Williams said. “I got up, turned on CNN and found that Santa had forgot my house and didn’t leave me a present.”
That said, Williams told NAACP members Trump wouldn’t last.
“Don’t you ever worry about a man named Donald Trump,” he said. “Donald Trump can’t do nothing to you. We got worried about Reagan, but we’re still here. We’ve been worried ever since we got off the boat, and we’re still here. I’m going to be here to tell Trump bye, and I hope it’s sooner rather than later, but I am not worried about him.”
Johnson said Trump’s ascension to the White House “doesn’t change anything about who he is, and it doesn’t change anything about who we are. We’re the NAACP. The most hated, most loved, most cussed and discussed, feared and revered civil rights organization in history,” he said. “Nobody said we were popular … in the time we were fighting for civil rights we were unpopular. We don’t mind being unpopular in the fight to make America what she ought to be.”
Lawrence Dorsey, Lewis Levine and Jeff Whitten contributed to this report.