Civil rights activists and local NAACP officials nationwide remain on high alert after a homemade pipe bomb was detonated outside a Colorado Springs building that houses that city’s NAACP chapter – even if, more than 48 hours later, federal authorities have yet to officially determine whether it was a targeted attack.
Federal officials said Thursday morning that investigators have yet to determine a motive for the bombing and are still searching for a balding white man believed to be in his 40s and driving a 2000-year model or older white pickup truck, who they say is a person of interest. City officials declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation, referring inquiries to the FBI’s Colorado field office.
“Regardless of if this act is determined to be a biased motivated crime, the law enforcement community in El Paso County does not condone this or any act of violence,” El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder, Fountain Police Chief Todd Evans, President Henry Allen Jr. of the Colorado Springs NAACP and Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey said in a joint statement released Thursday. “We stand with the business owners at Mr. G’s Hair Design Studio and the NAACP denouncing any violence or aggression brought against our community.”
Allen has praised law enforcement’s handling of the explosion and said Wednesday in an interview with The Washington Post that he doesn’t want to jump to any conclusions.
“We want to let it play out,” Allen said, adding that his chapter will not be deterred from working on local civil rights issues. “I want to think that we haven’t been targeted because I do not want to instil fear and I don’t want to instil anger.”
But the explosion has heightened tensions among civil rights activists and the organization’s chapter’s nationwide, many of whom find it implausible that this was anything but a targeted attack against a civil rights organization that has in the past had local offices firebombed and members murdered.
While law enforcement officials and media outlets have cautiously avoided the determination that the explosion was targeted at the NAACP office, many civil rights activists think the fact is evident.
“Although this is an active investigation, one thing is clear: This is an act of domestic terrorism,” declared Sondra Agnew-Young, president of the NAACP’s Denver branch, in a statement issued Thursday morning. “This cowardly attempt at a criminal act is both intolerable and morally reprehensible.”
In Boston, city and police officials touched base with NAACP leaders there, dispatching a police patrol to monitor the organization’s office, which was firebombed in 1975 in what was believed to be an attack by opponents of school desegregation.
“Sometimes the process of making democracy work for everyone comes at great risk,” the Boston chapter’s president, Michael Curry, noted in a post on the organization’s Facebook page.
The national office has been careful to not declare the explosion a targeted bombing, but has alerted all of its member chapters of the incident.
“Obviously this is concerning. What we know is that a crime was committed, what we don’t know is the names or identities of any criminals or their intentions,” said NAACP national President and CEO Cornell Brooks, during an interview with NewsOne’s Roland Martin on Wednesday.
“The reality is that the NAACP is a subject, object of affection by a great many Americans, but there is an infinitesimally small group of Americans that hate our work, hate our aspirations and do not mean us well,” Brooks said. “So we obviously have to be concerned about an explosive device detonated outside one of our offices.”
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who as a young man participated in the civil rights movement, decried the bombing in a tweet Wednesday.
“I am deeply troubled by the bombing in Colorado. It reminds me of another period,” Lewis wrote.