9:07 pm Eastern
By Chelsea Schilling
© 2010 WorldNetDaily
New Black Panther Party members outside polling place on Election Day
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is demanding to know why the Obama administration Justice Department dropped a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of wielding a nightstick and threatening voters at a Philadelphia polling place last Election Day.
The commission, an independent body charged with investigating civil-rights complaints and making recommendations to the federal government, held a hearing on the case May 14. Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, gave testimony, stating that "the facts did not constitute a prosecutable violation of the federal criminal civil rights statutes."
As WND reported, two men, Minister King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson, wearing paramilitary uniforms and armed with a nightsticks, blocked a doorway to a polling location to intimidate voters. Shabazz is leader of the Philadelphia chapter of the New Black Panther Party.
The following is one video of the incident posted on YouTube:
After a poll watcher saw one of the men brandishing a nightstick to threaten voters, he called police.
"As I walked up, they closed ranks, next to each other," he told Fox News. "So I walked directly in between them, went inside and found the poll watchers. They said they'd been here for about an hour. And they told us not to come outside because a black man is going to win this election no matter what."
He said the man with a night stick told him, "'We're tired of white supremacy' and he starts tapping the nightstick in his hand. At which point I said, 'OK, we're not going to get in a fist fight right here,' and I called the police."
A poll watcher with the University of Pennsylvania asked the men who they were with.
The man with the nightstick responded, "Uh, security," and asked why he was taking pictures.
He told them, "I think it might be a little intimidating that you have a stick in your hand." He continued, "I am a concerned citizen, and I'm just worried that …"
Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department
"So are we, and that's why we're here," the Black Panther with the nightstick interrupted.
According to various witnesses, the men also hurled racial epithets such as "white devil" and "cracker" and told voters they should prepare to be "ruled by the black man." One person said the men called a Republican poll worker a "race traitor" and told him there would be "hell to pay."
The Washington Times reported witnesses testified that they saw would-be voters try to enter the polling place. They purportedly saw the Black Panthers in the doorway and left without voting.
Officers escorted the man with the nightstick away from the polling location, but the other person in Black Panther gear was a poll watcher. Police allowed him to remain on the premises.
Minister Najee Muhammad, national field marshal for the New Black Panther Party, told a crowd Nov. 2 that the Black Panthers would send members to polling sites on Election Day, the Jackson Sun reported.
"We will not allow some racists and other angry whites, who are upset over an impending Barack Obama presidential victory, to intimidate blacks at the polls," he said. "Most certainly, we cannot allow these racist forces to slaughter our babies or commit other acts of violence against the black population, nor our black president."
Uhuru Shakur, chairman of the Atlanta chapter, said, "We love Barack Obama – he gives our people great hope and light for advancement. Every president America has had has been a white man. Now the black man must be given his time to rule. Obama is a man of justice and a leader who wants to do right."
Shakur had warned, "We will be at the polls in the cities and counties in many states to ensure that the enemy does not sabotage the black vote, which was won through the blood of the martyrs of our people."
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On Jan. 7, 2009, the Justice Department filed a complaint seeking injunctive and declaratory relief under Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 against four defendants: the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and its leader, Malik Zulu Shabazz, and the two men who appeared at the Philadelphia polling place on Nov. 4, 2008, Minister King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson. The complaint accused them of attempting to engage in, and engaging in, both voter intimidation and intimidation of individuals aiding voters.
"After reviewing the evidence, the Department concluded that there was insufficient evidence to establish that the Party or Malik Zulu Shabazz violated Section 11(b)," Perez said in his testimony.
He added, "Prior to the election, the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense made statements and posted notice that over 300 members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would be deployed at polling locations during voting on November 4, 2008, throughout the United States. To the department's knowledge, the single polling place in Philadelphia is the only location where an incident occurred. This apparent fact is inconsistent with the notion that the Party or Malik Zulu Shabazz directed a campaign of intimidation."
He noted that the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense posted a statement on its website dated Jan. 7, 2009, saying the men who blocked the polling place "do not represent the official views of the New Black Panther Party and are not connected nor in keeping with our official position as a party."
Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Loretta King
"At a minimum, without sufficient proof that New Black Panther Party or Malik Zulu Shabazz directed or controlled unlawful activities at the polls, or made speeches directed to immediately inciting or producing lawless action on Election Day, any attempt to bring suit against those parties based merely upon their alleged 'approval' or 'endorsement' of Minister King Samir Shabazz and Jackson's activities would have likely failed," Perez explained. As WND reported, Malik Zulu Shabazz endorsed Obama for president on Obama's own website prior to the election. Shabazz boasted he met Obama in 2007 on the 42nd anniversary of the voting rights marches in Selma, Ala.
With regard to King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson, Perez said the Justice Department considered all available information, including signed statements of poll observers or poll watchers at the polling place. The department filed an injunction against Shabazz, prohibiting him from displaying a weapon within 100 feet of a Philadelphia polling place. The department concluded that a nationwide injunction against Shabazz was not legally supportable.
In July 2009, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania declined prosecution. According to Perez, local police also declined to pursue state criminal charges.
"The evidence was insufficient to show that Minister King Samir Shabazz had engaged or planned to engage in a nationwide pattern of such conduct as he exhibited at the polling place in Philadelphia, or that he was inclined to disregard the injunction," Perez said.
The department stopped at the injunction and didn't call for criminal penalties, monetary damages or other civil penalties.
Despite videos of the incident posted on YouTube, Perez said the Justice Department concluded that the allegations against Jackson, the other defendant who was also a certified poll watcher at the Philadelphia polling place, "did not have sufficient evidentiary support."
He said the decisions on the case were made by a career attorney then serving as the acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.
Before the charges were dropped, a federal judge ordered default judgments against the Panthers after party members refused to appear in court. The Washington Times reported the Justice Department was seeking sanctions when Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general who had been granted a political appointment by President Obama in January 2009 to temporarily fill the position, ordered a delay in the proceedings. According to the report, the ruling was issued after King met with Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, the department's No. 3 political appointee, who approved the decision.
"Based on the totality of the evidence and the relevant legal precedent, the acting assistant attorney general made a judgment about how to proceed, choosing to seek an injunction against the only defendant who brought a weapon to the Philadelphia polling place on Election Day and to voluntarily dismiss the other three defendants," Perez explained.
He added, "The decision to proceed with the claims against Minister King Samir Shabazz and to dismiss the claims against the three other defendants was based on the merits and reflects the kind of good faith, case-based assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of claims that the Department makes every day."
In August last year, Gerald A. Reynolds, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, told the Washington Times the Justice Department has been offering "weak justifications."
He said, "If you swap out the New Black Panther Party in this case for neo-Nazi groups or the Ku Klux Klan, you likely would have had a different outcome."