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The Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference played a substantial role in the U.S. civil rights movement and the work of Martin Luther King Jr., who was its first president. But all is not well at the SCLC this week, where internal strife has developed into a power struggle over the group's leadership. Here's what's happening.

  • What Happened  WBS TV reports, "A new round began Monday night in the power struggle over who is in charge of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The Rev. Markel Hutchins padlocked the doors of the SCLC Monday night and then left. ... Under the cover of darkness, the parking lot and offices of the SCLC were chained and locked."
  • 'Feud Between Rival Factions'  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Rhonda Cook calls this a "feud between rival factions of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference." On one side is The Rev. Markel Hutchins, who "has insisted for several months that he is a board member for the decades-old civil rights group, even though a judge has said the vote that put him on the board was void." On the other side are the supporters of Martin Luther King's descendants. "Hutchins ran for SCLC president last year but lost to Bernice King, the youngest child of SCLC co-founder the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr."
  • The Back-Story  The A.P.'s Errin Haines recounts, "Last fall, federal and local authorities launched an investigation into allegations of financial mismanagement of at least $569,000 by the SCLC chairman and treasurer, who deny the allegations and continue to challenge their dismissal by some board members. Chairman Raleigh Trammell and Treasurer Spiver Gordon have not been criminally charged, but the SCLC has spent the past several months in court, wrangling over control of the organization. Last month, two factions both claiming to be the SCLC's board of directors met hundreds of miles apart and each claimed to make decisions in an attempt to save the group from its legal woes and bitter infighting."
Hutchins has no right to be on SCLC property. His conduct of vandalizing and damaging SCLC property proves that Hutchins will do anything to try to control the SCLC. ... I am troubled by this conduct. It is the act of [a] reckless individual. Markel Hutchins has stated that he would take over SCLC. He has stated that he would be president, and like a dictator or bully in a foreign land, who takes power by violence, Hutchins entered the headquarters after knocking in the back door, had the doors to the headquarters welded shut and chained.

Hutchins has never been a member of the board of directors or a national officer of the SCLC.Hutchins has never been elected as CEO or interim president. This conduct is criminal and deplorable. It is like a hate crime; it makes my stomach churn.

The SCLC headquarters contains valuable articles which depict the civil rights movement. Hutchins' acts have breached security and placed those items in jeopardy. Hutchins' actions do violence to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Enough is enough; it is time that we stop Markel Hutchins and the dictators whom he serves. They have no respect for democracy or the judicial process
  • The SCLC's Dark Days  When the conflict began in March, L.A. Times' Richard Fausset explored "the plight of the modern-day SCLC." He found that few young people even knew what the group was, and that, for "decades" now, "the SCLC has largely been defined by internal bickering and financial problems."

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