COLORADO SPRINGS, CO. – A motive still has not been determined for an explosion near a building that housed the Colorado Springs, Colorado NAACP branch earlier this month, but in the interim federal investigators are treating the investigation into the blast much like a hate crime, National NAACP President Cornell William Brooks told NBC News.
“The FBI has not been able to identify a motive – they’re not officially calling it a hate crime – but they’re devoting resources to [the investigation] as though it were,” said Brooks, following a debriefing Friday evening from representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Colorado Springs Police Department.
He said he could not disclose any further details about the incident or what was discussed in the closed-door meeting, which also included Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach. “What I can tell you is that we’ve been assured that all resources are being deployed. They’re taking this very seriously.”
Brooks, who heads the nation's oldest civil rights organization, arrived in the bedroom community about 70 miles outside of Denver hours earlier to meet privately with investigators and join in a weekend of community events dubbed a show of “solidarity and unity” in response to the Jan. 6 blast.
The building's exterior suffered minor damage, but no injuries were reported among the volunteers working inside the NAACP office or other businesses in the same building. A can of gasoline next to the homemade device failed to ignite investigators said, but according to local chapter president Henry D. Allen, Jr.the explosion rattled walls and sent items crashing down.
Allen, who was not present at the time, said although security measures have been beefed up in the aftermath, the bombing has heightened his concerns about the safety.
“I’m very concerned about their safety; they’re all volunteers,” he said of his staff. “They come in here on a completely voluntary basis because they want to do this work. It’s something that I worry about; as president I bear that responsibility.”
Brooks was warmly welcomed at a packed reception held in his honor at the Mining Exchange Wyndham Grand Hotel. The event drew regional NAACP members and local community leaders alike, including newly-elected Denver NAACP Chapter President Sondra Young, Colorado Springs District Attorney Dan May and Kathleen Ricker of the state’s Democratic Party.
“This evening our country is poised between France and Ferguson; between the challenges of the past and the challenges of the present,” Brooks told the crowd, referencing a deadly terrorist attack earlier this month in Paris and the controversial shooting death of an unarmed African American teen in Missouri.
Brooks said all acts of violence should be viewed equally.
“These acts of violence and intimidation make people feel apprehensive about being citizens; about being human in general,” he said. “That’s why we are here together taking a stand, that we won’t be intimidated by racial violence. We weren’t intimidated by it way back [in history] and we won’t be intimidated by it now.”
Brooks says he hopes his visit helps convey a clear-cut message to the nation that members of the Colorado Springs community and the NAACP will, “continue to show up against the forces of racial injustice.”
Allen echoed a similar sentiment, emphasizing that his chapter will remain committed to its ongoing fight for equity in education, economics, employment and voting.
“We cannot afford to stop standing up against the forces of injustice,” he said. “Colorado is part of America and unfortunately racism is evident in every aspect of our society.”
The bombing and other reports of injustice, he contended, points to an ongoing need for the NAACP’s work.
“Not too long ago we received calls about leaflets being left by the KKK recruiting residents as members; that happened right here in Colorado Springs,” he said. “We’re not going to be deterred. We’re an active branch; our caseload has doubled since I took office in 2013.”
Claire Garcia, a Colorado Springs English professor and wife of Colorado Lt. Governor Joseph Garcia, told attendees that the bombing shows that the NAACP and other civil rights organizations are more relevant than ever.
“There are those people who say that the NAACP is not relevant, that we live in a post-racial society because we’ve elected a black president,” she said. “Sadly from Ferguson to France they’ve been proven wrong.”
Brooks is slated to attend a luncheon and state conference at Colorado College later today. On Sunday, Brooks, a fourth generation ordained minister with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, will deliver the 11 a.m. sermon at New Jerusalem Baptist Missionary Church in Fountain, Colorado.
Denver chapter president Young said she hopes President Brooks’ visit leaves members of both the NAACP members and the community more motivated than ever.
“We’ve got to take precautions, but we’re always going to move forward in our work because we need the mission to be fulfilled,” she said. “We’re going to move forward in our work in the areas of health, education, economic development, social justice and voting. Like the Jewish people say, ‘never forget.’”