PORTSMOUTH, VA., AUG. 7 -- About 100 supporters of Mayor James W. Holley III, who is accused of sending hate mail to community leaders who criticized him, say they will organize a boycott of newspapers that have covered the controversy.

The group, Concerned Citizens for Portsmouth in Support of Mayor Holley, met at a local church Thursday to discuss plans for backing the city's first black mayor. Along with the newspaper boycott, members said they would attend council meetings and speak in support of the embattled mayor.

The group condemned The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star of Norfolk for their coverage of the hate-mail investigation.

The Rev. Rudolph L. Perry, a former City Council candidate, said that the commonwealth's attorney should not have released his report on the probe and that the newspapers should not have reported the findings.

Rafiq Zaidi, another former council candidate, called the newspaper reporters hypocrites and said they wrote the stories because they are slaves to editors who demand negative stories about the mayor.

Sandra M. Rowe, executive editor of the newspapers, said today, "We'll let them have their say. We had our say with the facts."

The group also plans a telephone and letter-writing campaign to the media and members of the council, who have asked the mayor to resign. Holley has refused to step down.

"This is the time in which you draw down from the well and you build the resolve about what you believe is right or just, what you believe is honorable, and that's what you fulfill as your responsibility as an elected official," Holley told the group.

Eight community leaders have received mail filled with threats and "This is the time. . . you build the resolve about what you believe is right or just."

-- Mayor James W. Holley III

racial insults, and an investigation by the commonwealth's attorney revealed that Holley's fingerprints were on at least three of the communications.

The Norfolk newspapers later hired two handwriting experts who matched writing on the hate mail with samples of Holley's writing on city records and book inscriptions.

The recipients of the mail, seven black leaders and a white newspaper editor, had criticized Holley for not opposing plans to close A.C. Norcom High School.