Friday, July 9, 2010
New Black Panters Movement
On Election Day in 2008, two members of a separatist hate group -- the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) -- stood outside of a polling place in a majority-black precinct in Philadelphia, dressed in paramilitary clothing, with one member carrying a billy club. The two men, King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson, flung insults like "white devil" and "you're about to be ruled by the black man, cracker" at poll watchers before the police arrived and made Shabazz, who was holding the weapon, leave while allowing Jackson, a certified poll watcher, to stay. The incident was caught on video, which "was played again and again on local and cable news," becoming "a cause célèbre in the conservative media world." "Shortly before President George W. Bush left office, the Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit against the two men, the New Black Panther Party and its leader, Malik Zulu Shabazz," seeking an injunction against "the members of the NBPP from deploying athwart the entry of polling places in future elections." In April 2009, "the division seemed to win the case by default because the New Black Panthers failed to show up in court. But the following month, a longtime Justice official, Loretta King -- who was then the acting head of the division -- decided to reduce the scope of the case," dropping the charges against everyone but Samir Shabazz, against whom they successfully gained an injunction prohibiting him "from displaying a weapon within 100 feet of any Philadelphia polling place through 2012." Since the Justice Department "announced it would not go further in prosecuting the other members of the [NBPP], conservative critics have demanded more action against the group and more answers from the agency." The conservative critics, including a former lawyer in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, claim that the decision is an example of "the profound hostility by the Obama Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department towards a race-neutral enforcement of civil rights laws." The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which is dominated by conservatives, picked up the cause and is "investigating the dismissal of the Black Panther case" as the topic of their annual report. The conservative hysteria over the case launched into overdrive last week when Fox News interviewed J. Christian Adams, a conservative former Justice Department lawyer who resigned in May over the handling of the case. Adams claimed that the Civil Rights Division has "a pervasive hostility to bringing" civil rights cases where the defendant is black and the victim is white. Adams testified before the Civil Rights Commission on Tuesday. His public charges against his former colleagues have led the story to move from just conservative media to the establishment press, getting coverage by the AP, the New York Times and CNN, despite the fact that the conservative vice chair of the Civil Rights Commission says "too much overheated rhetoric filled with insinuations and unsubstantiated charges has been devoted to this case."