COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ A prominent civil rights group on Tuesday canceled its national convention in Charleston to protest lawmakers' refusal to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol dome.

``We will urge every organization and corporation who loves justice to join this effort to push America back from the brink of senseless tribalism,'' Martin Luther King III, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said Tuesday on the steps of the Statehouse.

The announcement came four days before about 2,500 delegates and their families were to arrive in Charleston. The decision could cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars, said Lanneau Siegling, the former chairman of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People voted last week, at the urging of its South Carolina chapter, to boycott the state for flying the banner.

``We cannot, at this point in history, resurrect ghosts of the past and allow the resurgence of racism, discrimination and the politics of resentment that the Confederate flag reclaims,'' said King, the son of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

King also challenged Gov. Jim Hodges to ``come forth and stand up'' on removing the flag.

Hodges' spokeswoman Nina Brooks said he has worked to move the flag from the Capitol dome to a monument on the Statehouse grounds. With each challenge, flag supporters in the General Assembly rally and the flag stays put.

``The governor doesn't believe the legislators' will on that issue has changed,'' Ms. Brooks said.

Then-Gov. David Beasley suffered a backlash when he proposed removing the flag in 1996. The issue came back to haunt Beasley last year as he lost his bid for re-election.

The SCLC planned an emergency meeting this weekend to select a new site for the convention.