Posts Tagged ‘New Black Panther Party’
Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

A Texas Republican portrayed Attorney General Eric Holder as a kind of Black Power radical at a congressional hearing Tuesday, accusing him of allowing reverse racism to flourish in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas)

“There is clearly evidence — overwhelming evidence — that your Department of Justice refuses to protect the rights of anybody other than African Americans to vote,” Rep. John Culberson told the nation’s first black Attorney General during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing.

Culberson repeatedly challenged Holder over the Justice Department’s handling of a voter-intimidation case involving members of the New Black Panther Party, an issue that conservatives have been hammering on for nearly two years. The lawmaker questioned whether the race of the members of the anti-white fringe group played a role in the department’s 2009 decision to dismiss most of a civil lawsuit against them.

Holder said he “very vehemently” disagrees with the notion the department only protects the voting rights of blacks. “This Department of Justice does not enforce the laws in a race-conscious way,” Holder said. “Any allegation that has been lodged in that regard is simply false.”

Attorney General Eric Holder at Tuesday's congressional hearing. (Andrew Ramonas)

The civil lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party and three members was filed by the Bush administration just days before President Barack Obama took office. It alleged the Panthers intimidated voters by wearing military-style clothing outside a polling place in a black Philadelphia neighborhood during the November 2008 election. One of the men held a nightstick.

The conservative-led U.S. Commission on Civil Rights spent most of the last two years investigating the DOJ’s handling of the case. The commission said in a report on its investigation that the department did not completely address “serious accusations” made by former DOJ Civil Rights Division J. Christian Adams and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Coates, the former chief of the Civil Rights Division Voting Section, about opposition in the DOJ to taking up voting rights cases against minorities. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, the last attorney general in the administration of President George W. Bush, also has expressed concern about the DOJ’s handling of the case.

At the hearing, Culberson quoted Bartle Bull, who had been among the poll watchers at the Philadelphia precinct in 2008, as calling the New Black Panther incident “the most blatant form of voter intimidation” he had ever seen. In appearances on Fox News about the Black Panthers incident, Bull has described himself as a former Democratic activist and civil rights lawyer in Mississippi in the 1960s.

Holder, who is black, seemed irritated by the comment. The Attorney General often has touted the accomplishments of civil rights movement and has praised his late sister-in-law, Vivian Malone Jones, who was among the first black students at the University of Alabama.

“When you compare what people endured in the South in the 60s to try to get the right to vote for African Americans and to compare what people were subjected to there to what happened in Philadelphia is inappropriate,” Holder said. “To describe it in those terms, I think does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line for … my people.”

Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah, who represents parts of Philadelphia, said it is “bogus” that the New Black Panthers case has gained national significance.

“This fiction created by Fox News is that that they were there intimidating voters,” said Fattah, who is the top Democrat on the panel. “There were no allegations from the voters they were intimidated.”

Holder came before the subcommittee to testify about the DOJ’s $28.2 billion fiscal 2012 budget request. This was the first time the Attorney General appeared before a House panel since Republicans took control of the House in January.

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Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on Wednesday officially released a report highly critical of the Justice Department’s assistance with the commission’s investigation into a controversial voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party.

Race Neutral Enforcement of the Law? DOJ and the New Black Panther Party Litigation An Interim Report,” which the conservative-led commission approved last week, contains the same major complaints about the DOJ as an earlier draft of the body’s report leaked last month.

The report says the DOJ’s “lack of cooperation” raises questions about the government’s decision to dismiss most charges against members of the anti-white fringe group who wore military clothing as they stood outside a polling place in a black Philadelphia neighborhood in November 2008. The document says the department did not completely address “serious accusations” made by former DOJ staffer J. Christian Adams and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Coates, the former chief of the Civil Rights Division Voting Section, about opposition in the DOJ to taking up voting rights cases against minorities.

“[T]he record of communications within the Department appears to indicate that senior political appointees played a significant role in the decision making surrounding the lawsuit,” the report says. “The involvement of senior DOJ officials by itself would not be unusual, but the Department’s repeated attempts to obscure the nature of their involvement and other refusals to cooperate raise questions about what the Department is trying to hide.”

A DOJ spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the department previously has denied any wrongdoing in the case and rejected accusations of a lack of cooperation with the commission.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said in a statement before the commission earlier this year that the Civil Rights Division is “strongly committed” to enforcing voting rights laws. DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler also has said the department turned over more than 4,000 documents about the case at the request of the commission. But the report says those documents do not answer questions regarding the DOJ’s internal deliberations about the case.

The commission has spent more than $170,000 investigating the DOJ’s decisions in the New Black Panther Party case. Congressional Republicans have applauded the panel’s investigation, and some conservative commissioners have endorsed a continuance of the probe.

In late October, the commission subpoenaed key DOJ officials who were involved with the case. But the DOJ would not allow testimony from former acting Civil Rights Division Assistant Attorney General Loretta King, or division officials Julie Fernandes and Steve Rosenbaum, citing the commission’s terms for the depositions. The DOJ also declined to abide by a subpoena for testimony from Deputy Associate Attorney General Sam Hirsch, who has ties to the case.

Democratic Commissioner Michael Yaki said last week that the commission’s probe “is not legitimate” and “an irresponsible exercise.” He and Democratic Commissioner Arlan Melendez did not side with their conservative colleagues in the body’s 5-2 vote on Friday in favor of the New Black Panther report.

Friday, November 19th, 2010

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on Friday endorsed a disparaging report on the Justice Department’s management of a divisive voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party.

The body voted 5-2 along ideological lines to approve the conservative-backed document, three weeks after a Democratic commissioner walked out of a previous meeting, preventing consideration of the report. Republican Vice Chairman Abigail Thernstrom, who has voiced concerns about the commission’s investigation, was not present.

Democratic Commissioner Michael Yaki, who walked out of the last meeting, said the commission’s investigation “is not legitimate” and “an irresponsible exercise.” He said the report is “blown out of proportion.”

“It really reads like a bad script for a ‘Men in Black’ sequel,” Yaki said. “It has conspiracy theories, whispers of left-wing cabals, sinister forces at work tampering with witnesses, innuendo and rumor.”

U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Peter Kirsanow (photo by Andrew Ramonas / Main Justice)

Republican Commissioner Peter Kirsanow conceded that the New Black Panther case alone “may not be the most important thing in the world.” But he said the commission’s probe was important. He noted that former DOJ staffer J. Christian Adams and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Coates, the former chief of the Civil Rights Division Voting Section, testified before the commission that DOJ officials were opposed to opening voting rights cases against minorities.

“What drew the attention of this particular commission was [the New Black Panther case] appeared to be, and is now confirmed by these two witnesses to be, a manifestation of a policy and practice engaged in by the Department of Justice,” Kirsanow said.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said in a statement before the commission that the Civil Rights Division is “strongly committed” to enforcing voting rights laws, pushing back against commissioners’ criticism of  DOJ decisions in the case.

An earlier draft of the commission’s report says the DOJ did not fully cooperate with the probe, which focused on the government’s decision to throw out most charges against members of the anti-white fringe group who wore military clothing outside a polling place in a black Philadelphia neighborhood in November 2008. The version of the report approved by the commission also is critical of DOJ cooperation’s with the investigation, according to Republican and independent commissioners. The document will not become public for a few days.

The DOJ has voiced opposition to the earlier report’s allegations about the department’s responsiveness. DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said last month that the department has handed over more than 4,000 documents about the case at the request of the commission.

The commission has spent more than $170,000 probing the DOJ’s handling of the New Black Panther Party case. Congressional Republicans have commended the panel’s investigation, and some conservative commissioners have supported continuing the probe.

In late October, the panel subpoenaed key DOJ officials who were  involved with the case. But the DOJ would not permit testimony from former acting Civil Rights Division Assistant Attorney General Loretta King, or division officials Julie Fernandes and Steve Rosenbaum, citing the commission’s conditions for the depositions. The DOJ also declined to comply with a subpoena for testimony from Deputy Associate Attorney General Sam Hirsch, who has ties to the case.

This story has been updated.

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

This post has a clarification.

The Justice Department will not allow key officials involved with the controversial voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party to testify before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, protesting the commission’s terms for the depositions, Talking Points Memo reported Tuesday.

Director Joseph Hunt of the DOJ Federal Programs Branch wrote in a letter Monday to commission general counsel David P. Blackwood that the DOJ would not allow testimony from Civil Rights Division staffers after the commission refused to submit to DOJ conditions.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights subpoenaed former acting Civil Rights Division Assistant Attorney General Loretta King, in addition to division officials Julie Fernandes and Steve Rosenbaum, as part of its investigation into the DOJ’s decision to dismiss most charges against members of the anti-white fringe group. Two members of the group wore military clothing as they stood outside a polling place in a black Philadelphia neighborhood in November 2008.

Hunt wrote in a Nov. 12 letter to Hunt that the department would allow the officials to testify before the commission if the panel would use the DOJ staffers’ testimony to complete its report on the handling of the case and allow the department to review transcripts of the testimony. But the commission cried foul on Monday.

Blackwood said the DOJ is “delaying and smothering” the body’s probe with its conditions.

“It is disheartening that the Department opposes efforts to investigate such allegations and instead has devoted its resources to ’spin control’ and attempting to create a façade of cooperation,” Blackwood wrote Monday in a letter to Hunt. “Such efforts are neither effective nor productive.”

Former DOJ staffer J. Christian Adams and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Coates, the former chief of the Civil Rights Division Voting Section, previously testified about aversion in the DOJ to launching voting rights prosecutions against minorities. The DOJ instructed Adams and Coates not to go before the commission.

The panel also subpoenaed Deputy Associate Attorney General Sam Hirsch. But Hunt said in a Nov. 12 letter to the commission that the DOJ will not allow him to testify because he likely has nothing new to disclose beyond confidential DOJ communications.

The commission has spent more than $170,000 investigating the DOJ’s handling of the New Black Panther Party case. Republicans have praised the panel’s probe, sharing several commissioners’ concerns about the DOJ’s decisions in the case.

Earlier this month, the commission tried to vote on a draft report on its investigation. The document alleges the DOJ did not fully cooperate with the probe.

Democratic Commissioner Michael Yaki, who would have made quorum, left the meeting room in protest before the panel could vote on the report. The commission is now slated to vote Friday on the document.

Clarification: an earlier version of this article said the Justice Department had “reversed its decision.” The Justice Department offered to let the staffers testify if the commission agreed to certain conditions, and therefore Hunt’s letter does not represent a reversal of the DOJ’s position.

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Thursday, November 4th, 2010

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will not hold a meeting Friday to consider a draft report that blasts the Justice Department’s handling of a controversial voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party.

The panel is slated to meet again on Nov. 19, commission spokeswoman Lenore Ostrowsky told Main Justice Thursday. But the commission has not confirmed whether it plans to vote on the draft report at that meeting, the spokeswoman said. Ostrowsky said she wasn’t told why the meeting was canceled.

The conservative-led commission attempted last week to vote on the report, which alleges the DOJ did not fully cooperate with the body’s investigation into the government’s decision to dismiss most charges against members of the anti-white fringe group who wore military clothing as they stood outside a polling place in a black neighborhood in Philadelphia in November 2008. But Democratic Commissioner Michael Yaki, who would have made quorum, left the meeting room in protest before the body could vote on the report.

The body’s $173,653 investigation has received praise from Republicans, who have expressed concern about the DOJ’s decisions in the case.

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

A member of the New Black Panther Party on Tuesday greeted voters without incident outside the same Philadelphia polling station where he and another individual in the anti-white fringe group stood wearing military clothing two years ago, causing a controversy over a voter intimidation case that was later dismissed, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Jerry Jackson wore a Black Panther button and a necklace with a black-and-green pendant as he gave out Democratic ballots to voters, the newspaper said. He also told a lady to “have a nice day,” according to the Inquirer.

“There hasn’t been any static and turnout has been great,” Judge of Elections Lugina Robinson told the newspaper. “He’s not bothering anybody.”

Jackson declined comment to the newspaper.

“He seems to be just looking at people and that’s not against the law,” Sean Scully, deputy policy director at the Committee of Seventy, a nonpartisan political watchdog organization in Philadelphia, told the Inquirer.

No voter intimidation complaints were filed on Tuesday regarding Jackson.

The Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder dismissed most of the charges in the case against the New Black Panther Party members in May 2009, after the defendants failed to contest the lawsuit filed in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration. Republicans have used the case to paint the Barack Obama administration as hostile to race-neutral enforcement of civil rights laws. The Obama DOJ said the case was dismissed because it was weak.

The conservative-led U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is investigating the decisions made by the DOJ in the case. The panel is scheduled to vote Friday on a draft report that blasts the DOJ’s handling of the case.

The commission’s $173,653 investigation has received praise from Republicans, who have expressed concern about the DOJ’s decisions in the case.

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Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

A member of the New Black Panther Party on Tuesday was seen outside the same Philadelphia polling place where members of the anti-white fringe group stood wearing military clothing two years ago, prompting a controversy over a later-dismissed voter intimidation lawsuit.

The unidentified man with “a pin that indicated his party affiliation, along with a black hat, sunglasses and leather coat” appeared to be a volunteer, Fox 29 News in Philadelphia said. He declined to comment to the television station, which reported that no voter intimidation reports have been submitted Tuesday for the polling station.

The Obama-led Justice Department threw out most of the charges in the case against the New Black Panther Party members in May 2009, after the defendants failed to contest a lawsuit filed in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration. Republicans have used the case to paint the Obama administration as hostile to race-neutral enforcement of civil rights laws. The Obama DOJ said the case was dismissed because it was weak.

The conservative-led U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is investigating the decisions made by the DOJ in the case. The panel is set to vote Friday on a draft report that blasts the DOJ’s handling of the case.

The commission’s $173,653 investigation has received praise from Republicans, who have expressed concern about the DOJ’s decisions in the case.

This story was updated with additional background information.

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Friday, October 29th, 2010

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on Friday postponed a vote on a draft report that blasts the Justice Department’s handling of a controversial voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party after a Democrat thwarted the vote in protest.

Democratic Commissioner Michael Yaki, who would have made quorum, left the meeting room before the body could vote on the document. The report says the DOJ did not fully cooperate with the commission’s investigation into the government’s decision to dismiss most charges against members of the anti-white fringe group who wore military clothing as they stood outside a polling place in a black neighborhood in Philadelphia in November 2008. The panel postponed the vote on the report to next Friday.

Michael Yaki, a Democrat on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission (photo by Andrew Ramonas / Main Justice)

“This process for this entire investigation has been a farce from the beginning and done in a way to diminish the opportunity of those who oppose this investigation to participate,” Yaki told reporters outside the meeting room.

Commissioner Arlan Melendez, a Democrat, and Vice Chairman Abigail Thernstrom, a Republican, who both have concerns about the body’s investigation, were unable to attend the meeting, which he said was called on short notice. The Democratic commissioner said “their voices deserve to be heard.”

Chairman Gerald Reynolds, a Republican, told reporters after the meeting that no one tried to keep the commissioners from attending the meeting.

“There was no game playing here,” Reynolds said.

The draft report, obtained by Talking Points Memo, says the DOJ did not adequately address “serious accusations” made by former DOJ staffer J. Christian Adams and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Coates, the former chief of the Civil Rights Division Voting Section, about hostility in the DOJ to prosecuting voting rights cases against minorities. Adams and Coates were told by the DOJ not to appear before the commission.

DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler told Main Justice on Thursday that she “strongly” disagrees with the report’s claims about the DOJ’s responsiveness. She said the DOJ has handed over more than 4,000 documents about the case at the request of the commission.

Schmaler also noted that Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez testified about the case before the commission. He defended decisions made in the case in his testimony earlier this year.

The report cites The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, as the source of many of its findings. The commission’s $173,653 investigation has received praise from Republicans, who have expressed concern about the DOJ’s decisions in the case.

Commissioner Peter Kirsanow, a Republican, said the commission should discuss keeping its probe open on an “indefinite” basis because the body is still waiting for more information from the DOJ. David Blackwood, the commission’s general counsel, said the body will subpoena former acting Civil Rights Division Assistant Attorney General Loretta King and her former deputy, Sam Hirsch, in addition to division officials Julie Fernandes and Steve Rosenbaum, who are key figures involved with the New Black Panther Party case.

“I understand that the Department of Justice did agree to at least receive our next set of subpoenas,” said Commissioner Todd F. Gaziano, an Independent. “That’s a good thing. I hope they actually stop instructing their employees not to [testify].”

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is set to vote Friday on a report highly critical of the Justice Department’s handling of a controversial voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party, Talking Points Memo reported Thursday.

The draft version of the report says the DOJ did not fully cooperate with the commission’s investigation into the government’s decision to dismiss most charges against members of the anti-white fringe group who wore military clothing as they stood outside a polling place in a black neighborhood in Philadelphia in November 2008. The document says the DOJ did not thoroughly address “serious accusations” made by former DOJ staffer J. Christian Adams and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Coates, the former chief of the Civil Rights Division Voting Section, about hostility in the DOJ to prosecuting voting rights cases against minorities.

“[T]he record of communications within the Department appears to indicate that senior political appointees played a significant role in the decision making surrounding the lawsuit,” the report says. “The involvement of senior DOJ officials by itself would not be unusual, but the Department’s repeated attempts to obscure the nature of their involvement and other refusals to cooperate raise questions about what the Department is trying to hide.”

DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler told Main Justice that she “strongly” disagrees with the report’s claims about the DOJ’s responsiveness. She said the DOJ has turned over more than 4,000 documents regarding the case at the request of the commission.

Schmaler also noted that Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez testified about the case before commission. He defended decisions made in the case in his testimony earlier this year.

The report cites The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, as the source of many of its findings. The commission’s $173,653 investigation has been applauded by Republicans, who have expressed concern about the DOJ’s decisions in the case.

Monday, October 25th, 2010

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights spent $173,653 in its investigation into the Justice Department’s handling of a controversial voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party, Talking Points Memo reported Monday.

The commission held several hearings over the last year regarding the DOJ’s decision to dismiss most of the charges against members of the anti-white fringe group who stood outside a majority-black polling place wearing military clothing in November 2008. The hearings included testimony this year from key DOJ officials including Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, former DOJ prosecutor J. Christian Adams and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Coates, the former chief of the Civil Rights Division Voting Section.

Perez defended the decision made in the case during his testimony before the commission. But Coates, who testified against DOJ orders, and Adams blasted the handling of the case.

The commission will meet Friday to approve its New Black Panther enforcement report, which is expected to be critical of the DOJ, according to TPM. The investigation has been applauded by Republicans, who have expressed concern about the DOJ’s decisions in the case.