The chairman of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense told The Associated Press that the now-dismissed civil lawsuit filed by the Justice Department against his organization had no merit because the party does not condone voter intimidation.
Malik Zulu Shabazz, speaking publicly for the first time about the controversy, said the DOJ made the right call in May when it dismissed the voter intimidation lawsuit. The civil charges stemmed from an incident in Philadelphia last November in which two members of the fringe group stood outside a polling place in military-style fatigues. One of them carried a nightstick.
Shabazz, who was not present in Philadelphia during the incident,Â told The AP that Republicans who say politics was behind the decision to dismiss the lawsuit are on a “political witch hunt” to discredit Attorney General Eric Holder. Shabazz called GOP efforts to draw attention to the matter “part of the overall war that the Republicans are waging against Eric Holder in general.”
The New Black Panther Party is celebrating its 20th anniversary during a national three-day summit that started Friday in Dallas. Members of the groupÂ have been recorded calling whites “cracker” and other derogatory terms. The New Black Panthers are not related to the 1960s Black Panther group founded in Oakland, Calif., by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton.
“I certainly would like black America and all the world to take a second look at the New Black Panther Party at this point and to understand that weâ€™re sincerely trying to help our people,” Shabazz told The AP.
The Justice Departmentâ€™s Office of Public Affairs had not comment on The AP story.