Remember all that hullabaloo about the politicization of the Bush Department of Justice?
Have a taste of Hope and Change!
Justice Department political appointees overruled career lawyers and ended a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of wielding a nightstick and intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place last Election Day, according to documents and interviews.
The incident – which gained national attention when it was captured on videotape and distributed on YouTube – had prompted the government to sue the men, saying they violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by scaring would-be voters with the weapon, racial slurs and military-style uniforms.
Career lawyers pursued the case for months, including obtaining an affidavit from a prominent 1960s civil rights activist who witnessed the confrontation and described it as “the most blatant form of voter intimidation” that he had seen, even during the voting rights crisis in Mississippi a half-century ago.
With all due apologies to the Who, it sounds like a case of “come meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” at a bare minimum. The worst part about this story is that the career lawyers had already secured a default verdict against the three miscreants — members of the “New Black Panther Party.” Recognized as a “black separatist” organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center, this group is sufficiently anti-social that the original Black Panther party consider the group illegitimate and insist “there is no new Black Panther Party?”
Now, why would the Department of Justice, under the steady hand of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who has claimed great respect and admiration for the career lawyers of the DOJ, have the go out and literally “unwin” a case? This was not a marginal case nor was it controversial — in the words of Bartle Bull, long time civil rights activist and former aide to Bobby Kennedy, who submitted an affidavit in this matter:
In my opinion, the men created an intimidating presence at the entrance to a poll,” he declared. “In all my experience in politics, in civil rights litigation and in my efforts in the 1960s to secure the right to vote in Mississippi … I have never encountered or heard of another instance in the United States where armed and uniformed men blocked the entrance to a polling location.
In other words, even the Klukkers weren’t this brazen.
With a win in hand, the DOJ inexplicably let the three off the hook, with the greatest sanction remaining an order against one of the men not to be seen brandishing a weapon within 100 feet of a polling place in the future… or, at least not until until Nov. 15, 2012. At least he’ll have to leave the billy-club home next Presidential election — thank goodness for small mercies.