Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson calling for a "resistance agenda" to counter the recent conservative turn in American politics, said yesterday that a major effort will be made in the lame-duck session of Congress, which begins today, to defeat eight riders to money bills that would substantially weaken some civil rights gains of the 1960s and 1970s.
It was the first news conference by a major civil rights activist since last week's defeat of President Carter and several Senate allies of the civil rights movement. Jackson's purpose was as much to lift the spirits of blacks frightened and despairing about the election results as it was to discuss priorities and strategy for operating in the new conservative climate.
He said he sensed that many blacks are "paralyzed, petrified and frightened," and had urged them to snap out of it.
"We're simply saying to our people this is no time for tears. We must hold our heads up high," he said. "By losing we go from offense to defense. We don't go from offense to exile."
The riders Jackson targeted for defeat in the lame-duck session were tacked onto appropriations bills earlier in this session of Congress.
They would bar the federal government from going to court to have school busing plans implemented, stop imposition of affirmative-action plans in firms doing government work, bar numerical goals for women and minorities in higher education and athletics and keep the federal government from moving against all-white private schools set up to avoid public school integration.
Jackson called the riders the work of right-wing congressional conservatives "emboldened by the growth of the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis."
He said he has urged Carter to veto the appropriations bills if they reach his desk, and he added that, based on a conversation he had with the president Monday night, he thinks Carter would do just that.
Jackson was one of Carter's most active supporters, traveling to more than 70 cities in the campaign. The day after the election, he sounded the most embittered among a group of generally gloomy civil rights leaders. Since, then, however, he has bounced back with the catchy phrases that are his trademark. He likes to use football analogies to describe the situation in which blacks, who gave 80 to 90 percent of their votes to Carter, and other Democrats now find themselves.:
"When Carter won, Republicans didn't leave the stadium, they went on the defensive," he said. "We can set up a series of systematic defensive plays. You can stop them from doing everything they want to do and sometimes you can make them fumble."
Jackson signaled yesterday that other parts of his "resistance agenda" would be to fight efforts to dismantle or cut deeply into major social programs and to battle against the GOP proposal for a sub-minimum wage designed to help get jobs for black teen-agers, whose unemployment rate is 75 percent in some cities.
"It's not enough to say jobs, jobs, jobs," Jackson said, referring to the proposal to employ black youths by paying them less than the minimum wage "Slavery was jobs for everyone without a minimum wage."