NAACP protest of Governor's suspension of 6 DeKalb County School Board members
Governor Nathan Deal (R-Georgia) suspends 6 DeKalb County School Board members on Feb. 25, 2013
Six of nine DeKalb School Board members suspended by the Governor (circled)
ATLANTA -- The issue of race has been simmering just beneath the surface of the DeKalb School Board controversy.
On Thursday, Georgia's NAACP, other civil rights activists and some African-American state legislators made it official.
MORE | Continuing coverage of DeKalb school issues
They accused Republican Governor Nathan Deal of being part of an alleged conspiracy to get rid of black office holders and deprive black voters of their rights.
"We've fought too hard and bled too long to allow our officials to be removed by a dictator," said Georgia NAACP President Edward DuBose at a rally on the State Capitol steps.
The group blasted the governor for suspending 6 of 9 members of the DeKalb County School Board last Monday, 5 of whom are black.
He acted under a 2011 law that allows removal when a school system's accreditation is threatened.
DeKalb was placed on probation last December by an accrediting agency that called the board dysfunctional.
On Thursday the civil rights activists said the issue isn't whether the board members deserve to be replaced, but who should have the power to do it.
They support the suspended board members' lawsuit challenging the removal law as unconstitutional.
"If people need to be removed, they can be removed by recall or they can be removed in 2014 when it's time to vote again," said State Representative Dee Dawkins-Haigler (D-Lithonia).
The activists also blasted fellow African-American lawmakers who support the Governor's decision.
"How can we complain about him when we have black folks standing there embracing the removal of black officials?" asked State Representative Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta).
One of those black lawmakers who support the Governor called the removal law fair, if not perfect.
"The purpose of the legislation is not to displace school board members," State Senator Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) told 11 Alive News.
"The purpose of that legislation was to ensure that our school boards took very seriously any threat of losing their accreditation," he added.
Some of the civil rights activists went to Governor Deal's office demanding a face to face meeting.
After waiting an hour-and-a-half they left promising to bring back more protesters in a few weeks.
Meanwhile, negotiations continue to try and settle the suspended board members' lawsuit.
But those talks are not expected to produce anything before a hearing with a federal judge on Friday.