The black leader of a California-based nonprofit organization has claimed that supporters of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition leader Jesse Jackson assaulted him physically and verbally at a trade conference in Los Angeles.
The Rev. Jesse Peterson, founder and head of BOND – the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny, which is based in Los Angeles, said the alleged abuse began during a question-and-answer session Monday at a Trade Bureau Forum Meeting held by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
“I grew up in Alabama, and the whole thing reminded me of Ku Klux Klan meetings that I saw as a kid,” Peterson told WorldNetDaily. “The other day, though, the participants were black thugs dressed in suits instead of white ones in robes.”
The meeting, which included Jackson and officials of Toyota, was held to unveil the car company’s “21st Century Diversity Strategy” program. Jackson, as well as Irv Miller, Toyota’s vice president of corporate communications, were the featured speakers.
Attempts to gain comment from the coalition’s L.A. offices were unsuccessful. A spokeswoman at Rainbow’s national headquarters in Chicago said she had no knowledge of the incident but pledged to look into it. She had not returned a phone call by press time.
Ermias Alemayehu, a spokesman for BOND who attended the meeting with Peterson, told WND that Jackson opened the Q & A session with accusations that Attorney General John Ashcroft is “coming after” him.
“He said, ‘I have been on the red squad list by Ashcroft and others; they’re after us,'” Alemayehu said.
Alemayehu quoted Jackson as saying, “They’re using [Sept. 11 suspect and terrorist Osama] bin Laden as an excuse to come after us. We [U.S.] gave bin Laden 60 million [dollars], if we’re going to fight terrorists, we must also fight the Klan. Locking people out of economic opportunity is a form of economic terrorism.”
Alemayehu also said that Jackson, in order to demonstrate his commitment to youth, invited members of the “Decatur Seven” to his organization’s Fourth Annual Awards Dinner, held Monday night in Beverly Hills.
The “Decatur Seven” is a reference to black students who were expelled from high school after attacking fellow students at a football game in Decatur, Ill. Jackson traveled to the town after they were suspended in an unsuccessful attempt to get local school officials to reinstate them.
Jackson also told his audience of about 200 local black businessmen and entertainers that minorities could not get ahead on talent alone, that they must join the coalition’s “trade bureau” or risk missing out on hundreds of millions in corporate dollars, Alemayehu said.
After making his comments, Jackson opened up to questions. Peterson said he immediately asked Toyota’s Miller, “As the president of a nonprofit conservative organization, I’m concerned that our young people will be locked out of any training programs offered by Toyota because of our conservative beliefs. How are you going to make sure that organizations like ours are not discriminated against by Rainbow/PUSH and its members?”
What followed next, he said, was near-chaos.
“The crowd began yelling, screaming and jeering at me,” Peterson said, adding that one man asked him to sit down and be quiet.
Peterson also said Judge Greg Mathis, host of Warner Brothers’ reality court program, “Judge Mathis Show,” also joined the fray, yelling, “You must be watching too much O’Reilly,” a reference to WND columnist and host of Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” program, Bill O’Reilly, who has been a regular critic of Jackson’s business practices.
The BOND chairman also said Carl Dickerson, the co-chair of the event, began verbally “attacking me personally, calling me ‘stupid.’ At one point, someone in the crowd asked, ‘What are you doing? Why are you saying this?'”
After “several” heated exchanges, Jackson himself “jumped in by calling Rev. Peterson and other black conservatives ‘parasites who show up after someone else shakes the fruit off the trees,'” according to Alemayehu.
At that point, he said, Peterson “laid into Jackson for his personal attack. The two were sitting five feet from each other, separated only by a large conference table.”
Then, Alemayehu said, a security guard “tried to remove Rev. Peterson, but the reverend refused to leave.”
Peterson said Jackson’s son, Jonathan, then came over to where he was seated, along with two other people he described as “Jackson supporters.”
“They positioned themselves across from me and glared at me for the remainder of the meeting,” he said.
When the forum was over, Peterson said he and Alemayehu got up to leave, but the younger Jackson “attempted to block my way.”
“We moved on past him anyway, but then he, Mathis and several others crossed the room to head off us,” Peterson said. “Jonathan shoved me as he brushed past me. I told him he ought to stop that, since it’s illegal to make that kind of contact with someone.”
In the next few moments, Peterson said more Jackson supporters, including the Rainbow/PUSH coalition leader himself, “surrounded us.” He said Rev. Jackson could be heard telling other men to “get his ass out of here.”
Peterson also said Mathis was “screaming and yelling at me too, saying I needed to leave ‘before you get your ass kicked.'”
Appearing on the O’Reilly program last night, Peterson said that during the “open forum” Toyota’s Miller said the company would spend $700 million next year on “diversity programs.”
O’Reilly said in his experience investigating Jackson’s business practices, Toyota’s concessions were typical.
“This is Toyota’s fault,” O’Reilly said, “for being too afraid to stand up to Jesse Jackson.”
Peterson agreed: “Most whites are afraid to stand up against Jackson because they are afraid to be called racists.”
O’Reilly said neither Mathis nor representatives from Jackson’s organization would appear on the show.
BOND officials said plans to hold the group’s Third Annual National Day of Repudiation of Jesse Jackson in L.A. Jan. 21 wouldn’t be changed.