Coffin at N. Carolina voting station draws fire from NAACP
Diane Sweet
Published: Saturday November 1, 2008

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A former North Carolina County Commissioner displayed a coffin carrying the photograph of Sen. Barack Obama outside an early voting station Saturday, setting of a firestorm from the NAACP.

The National Association of Colored Persons wrote a letter today asking both political parties and its members to condemn the coffin. The NAACP's Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II says the symbol suggests a death threat as a way to demean a candidate, and possibly intimidate voters, or frighten them away from the polls.

The coffin was displayed by a former Craven County Commissioner, Bill Harper for several hours at the firestation used for early voting in Craven County.

Election officials and polling staff were aware of the display and told Harper that he needed to stay behind the line where political supporters and political signs must stay.

The county sheriff's department arrived on the scene and remained "just to make sure tensions didn't get too high." Harper was not fined or arrested as the coffin display did not violate any laws.

Harper said he displayed the coffin because it "symbolizes his belief that democrats will tax Americans to death if they are elected" and that he first displayed it in 1992 when Bill Clinton ran against George H. W. Bush.

A local Republican Party spokesman said citizens "should be outraged."

RAW STORY obtained a copy of the NAACP's letter, which follows.

This morning in Craven County, I saw it for myself, just outside a polling place: a casket with Barack Obama's name on it. The NC NAACP has formally requested that both the Democratic and Republican Parties condemn this attempt at voter intimidation using images of death.

You can help by forwarding this email to friends, colleagues and political officials you may know, expressing your own outrage.

News Channel 12 in New Bern has covered the story.

Here's what I said in the letter to party officials:

I write about a matter of great urgency and seriousness. A casket with a picture of Sen. Barack Obama on it was conspicuously within the sight of voters entering an early voting polling place in Craven County yesterday. State Representative William Wainwright along with local NAACP President Alfred Barfield were alerted to the dangerous situation by their respective constituents, and they were able to convince the Craven County Sheriff to remove the vicious display. The obvious attempt was to use the image of death as a way of demeaning a particular candidate as well as intimidating voters. The casket had been placed near a fire station polling place.

The North Carolina NAACP calls on the state and national leadership of both major parties to denounce such acts. We request your parties issue strong statements of condemnation to the media and to call on your national candidates and their surrogates to repudiate such vicious acts.

There is no room for the suggestion of death threats for any candidate of any party in the United States. We condemn all such acts. North Carolina is the state where the only violent overthrow of an elected government took place in l898, when the bi-racial government of Wilmington was the object of a terrorist attack as a prelude to 70 years of disenfranchisement of African Americans. We will never go back.

Thank you for your immediate attention to our requests.


Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

c: Mr. Ben Jealous, President, National NAACP