SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The NAACP is supporting efforts to bar a New Mexico-based county commissioner from public office, alleging that the Cowboys for Trump cofounder has sought to disenfranchise voters -- including people of color -- and stoke insurrection.
The nation's oldest civil rights organization urged a state district court judge to remove and disqualify Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin from holding future public office, noting Griffin's presence at the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection and his recent refusal to certify local results of New Mexico's June 7 primary election.
Written final arguments and judgement are pending after a two-day bench trial against Griffin, who has represented himself without legal counsel.
In a court filing Tuesday, the NAACP noted that Griffin attempted to draw comparisons between the Jan. 6 insurrection and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Lawful protests and demonstrations in support of civil rights and the Black Lives Matter movement are fundamentally different from the insurrectionist conduct that occurred on Jan. 6,” the NAACP said in its briefing.
The lawsuit's three plaintiffs argue that Griffin should be disqualified from holding public office on the basis of a clause in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that holds that anyone who has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution be barred from office for engaging in insurrection or rebellion or giving aid or comfort to the nation’s enemies.
Griffin has invoked free speech guarantees in his defense and argues that removing him from office would cut against the will of the people and set a “dangerous precedent.”
Elected in 2018, Griffin withstood a recall vote last year but isn’t running for reelection or other office in November.
“If the plaintiffs prevail and a single judge subverts the will of the great people of Otero County, it will only be further proof of the tyranny we currently live under,” Griffin said Friday in an email. “There was already a recall effort waged against me after Jan. 6. In that recall effort the people of Otero County spoke and the recall failed.”
Griffin was convicted in federal court of a misdemeanor for entering Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, 2021, without going inside. He was sentenced to 14 days and given credit for time served.
The NAACP has also highlighted attempts by Griffin to invoke the plight of civil rights activists of the 1960s in his own defense. The NAACP briefing also denounces Griffin's prior criticism of those who support performances at football games of "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing, also known as the Black National Anthem.
In a July 2020 selfie video, Griffin suggested supporters of the Black National Anthem “go back to Africa and form your little football teams over in Africa and you can play on an old beat-out dirt lot.”
Griffin has called his comments a poor choice words to express what he sees as a double standard that holds white people responsible for racist behavior.
“If there was a group of white people wanting to play a ‘white national anthem’ I would have had the same response to them,” Griffin said Friday in response to the NAACP briefing. “And as a white person I’d be disgusted by that idea.”
Griffin voted in June against certification of local primary election results based on a “gut feeling” without specific objections.
Morgan Lee, The Associated Press