New Black Panther Party May Be at Polls Again
On September 9th, Malik Zulu Shabazz, national chairman of the New Black Panther Party, said in a WABC Radio interview that the party may deploy at voting places again this year in November to prevent voter fraud.
By ‘again,’ he was referring to a 2008 incident where two NBPP militia members dressed in full paramilitary regalia stood outside a Philadelphia voting place shouting racial slurs at whites who entered. One was holding a police-style nightstick. Of the two men, one was a credentialed poll watcher. The other was not.
Chargers of voter intimidation were brought against the NBPP members but were dropped by the Justice Department.
At the time, the NBPP distanced itself from the incident, saying that the actions of a few individuals can’t be attributed to the whole party. But in the WABC interview, Shabazz said, ‘We were not found that we intimidated anyone.’ He further said that the Panthers
would consider ‘legally and lawfully’ going to the polls again.
What Is Voter Intimidation?
Voter intimidation is something of a fuzzy term legally speaking. What it refers to is putting pressure on voters to make them vote one way or another, or not to vote. These are coercive practices and can be used against a group of people or entire demographic.
An example would be a 2004 case in South Dakota where a US District Court found that republican poll watchers were intimidating Native American voters by following them around at voting places and taking down their license plate numbers.
All courts agree that threats or violence constitute voter intimidation, but beyond that, it’s not clearly defined. Some jurisdictions have ruled that cases similar to the one above are not voter intimidation at all. Courts differ in their interpretation.
The concept of voter intimidation was created by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This act was created because of Jim Crow laws that allowed black voters in the south to be disenfranchised. In many areas throughout the south, whites threatened blacks with
physical violence if they went to the polls. Today, voter discrimination is more subtle.
A provision of the Voting Rights Act requires certain states with a history of blocking black voters to seek approval from the Justice Department to any changes made in their voting laws and procedures. Republican-led legislatures from a number of states are now fighting to get this provision repealed.
All Power to the People
New Black Panther Party chairman Shabazz is a controversial figure. He’s been prevented from entering Canada because of anti-Semitic comments he’s made which are considered hate speech under Canadian law.
The New Black Panther Party has no connection to the Black Panther Party, which was active from the 1960s to the early 1980s. The original panthers have criticized the new organization. The Huey P. Newton Foundation issued a press statement accusing the
NBPP of exploiting the name. The original panthers, the statement explains, had always acted ‘on love of black people, not hatred of white people.’