January 9, 2009

Feds sue New Black Panthers for voter intimidation

The U.S. government has filed a lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense alleging the organization intimidated voters at a precinct polling place in Philadelphia during the Nov. 4 election.

"Intimidation outside of a polling place is contrary to the democratic process," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Grace Chung Becker in a prepared statement.

"The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed to protect the fundamental right to vote and the department takes allegations of voter intimidation seriously," she said.

The complaint explains party chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz confirmed that Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson were placed at the polling location in Philadelphia as part of a nationwide effort to deploy New Black Panther Party members on election day.

The complaint alleges a violation of Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits intimidation, coercion or threats against "any person for voting or attempting to vote." The Justice Department seeks an injunction preventing any future deployment of, or display of weapons by, New Black Panther Party members at the entrance to polling locations.

The government explained in its filing in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia that Shabazz and Jackson wore the uniform of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, and Shabazz repeatedly brandished a police-style baton weapon.

A Fox News report of the incident has been posted on YouTube. It also has been embedded here.

In the report, a GOP election monitor said he called police after being told that the men were there to make sure a "black" wins the election.

On the AmericasRight.com website, Jeff Schreiber reported the pair assigned to the polling also "hurled racist comments and racial slurs at voters and prospective voters."

A statement on the website of the New Black Panther Party stated tersely that the Philadelphia chapter of the party "is suspended from operations and is not recognized … until further notice."

"The New Black Panther Party has never, and never will, condone or promote the carrying of nightsticks or any kind of weapon at any polling place. Such actions that were taken were purely the individual actions of Samir Shabazz and not in any way representative or connected to the New Black Panther Party," the statement said.

"On that day November 4th, Samir Shabazz acted purely on his own will and in complete contradiction to the code and conduct of a member of our organization. We don't believe in what he did and did not tell him to do what he did, he moved on his own instructions," the organization said.

An earlier video shows, in part, how the situation developed:

But the Justice Department alleged: "Throughout the course of this deployment at the polling location, and while the polls were open for voting, Defendant Samir Shabazz pointed the weapon at individuals, menacingly tapped it [in] his other hand, or menacingly tapped it elsewhere. This activity occurred approximately eight to fifteen feet from the entrance to the polling location. Defendant Samir Shabazz was accompanied by Defendant Jerry Jackson during this activity, and the two men stood side by side, in apparent formation, throughout most of this deployment."

The complaint alleges the organization actually urged similar behavior nationwide with a notice that more than 300 members would be deployed at polling places.

Schreiber reported the defendants are alleged to have violated federal law "by deployment of armed and uniformed personnel at the entrance to the polling location," and the defendants' "loud and open use" of racially derogatory comments "enhanced the intimidating and threatening presence at the polling location."

The complaint argues the New Black Panther Party will continue such actions save for intervening action from the court. As a result, the government is seeking not only a declaration that the defendants violated the Voting Rights Act but also a court order permanently enjoining the defendants from conducting similar operations at polling places during future elections.

No comments: