Friends in High Places

The Weekly Standard

The case is straightforward. On Election Day 2008, two members of the New Black Panther party (NBPP) dressed in military garb were captured on videotape at a Philadelphia polling place spouting racial epithets and menacing voters. One, Minister King Samir Shabazz, wielded a nightstick. It was a textbook case of voter intimidation and clearly covered under the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

A Department of Justice trial team was assigned to investigate. They gathered affidavits from witnesses—one of the poll watchers was called a “white devil” and a “cracker.” A Panther told him he would be “ruled by the black man.” The trial team, all career Justice attorneys and headed by voting section chief Chris Coates, filed a case against the two Panthers caught on tape. Malik Zulu Shabazz, head of the national NBPP, and the party itself were also named based on evidence the party had planned the deployment of 300 members on Election Day and on statements after the incident in which the NBPP endorsed the intimidation at the Philadelphia polling station.

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