The head of the South Carolina branch of the National Action Network will be placed under review by his organization following his response to a 29 March 2017 incident captured on video.
An official with the civil rights group criticized James Johnson after he accused businesses owned by people of Middle Eastern descent of "raping the black community" while protesting the apparent attack against 38-year-old Tyrone Mazyck in North Charleston.
Johnson said at a 3 April 2017 press conference:
What we're going to do to every foreigner's store in our community is demand that they put some of that money back in the community. Only seven cents out of every dollar circulate in our community. And we're not gonna stand for it anymore.
He also referred to the owners of Andrew's Discount Market, where the incident occurred, as "Arabs" and said, "They need to go back to their country where their laws are different from our laws."
Rev. Nelson B. Rivers, the NAN's vice president for religious affairs and external relations responded by saying that while Johnson was addressing a "wider problem," the group could not allow his comments.
Black folk more than anyone else know they always find themselves guilty as a whole for the conduct of a few. That's discriminatory...
The NAN, which was founded by former presidential candidate and MSNBC host Rev. Al Sharpton, will consider Johnson's status during its national convention in New York City starting on 26 April 2017.
Johnson has joined Mazyck's family in demonstrations outside the store since the footage was posted online. The video, which was filmed by a witness, shows Mazyck on the floor inside the store while a man brandishes a gun, then hits him with a wooden stick. Another man can be seen in the video hitting Mazyck with a sword.
Both aggressors have been described as store employees. At one point, Mazyck tells the employees, "I got the money." But one of the employees continues hitting him. The store owner, who has identified himself as both Ahmad Shedid and Alex, said that Mazyck entered the store with a knife, then fought employees while trying to steal incense.
According to a police report, an officer found Mazyck sitting on the floor of the store next to a knife and a bookbag containing incense. The report also stated that Mazyck admitted to trying to steal the incense and that he made "numerous threats and promise of retribution" against both police and store employees.
Mazyck was charged with second-degree shoplifting. Authorities said they are reviewing the footage to determine whether the store employees would face charges.
Police did not respond to our request for comment. We also contacted Rivers seeking further comment; he, too, has yet to respond.