Second Thoughts on the New Black Panthers

by Dave Weigel

Adam Serwer dials back the claim he made yesterday about the timing of the case against the New Black Panther Party -- the claim I linked, a bit too hastily.

I wrote my post yesterday about the Justice Department's decision not to pursue criminal charges against the NBPP during the Bush administration because I had seen conservatives arguing that it was made by the Obama administration. It wasn't. I did not mean to suggest that the civil case, which the DoJ dropped in May of last year after receiving a preliminary injunction against the only NBPP member in Philadelphia who was walking around with a baton, was dismissed during the Bush administration.

Got all that? It's important, because if all these decisions were made before Obama's team took their places at DOJ, the charges made by J. Christian Adams -- the lawyer who quit the department and started making charges that the case was dropped because of disinterest in pursuing claims of anti-white discrimination -- don't hold up at all. But because the case was only definitively dropped under Obama, and because the dismissive attitude Adams has complained about came after the case was dropped, this doesn't go away.

All that said, the problem I have with the new obsession with this is, really, that there's no evidence the NBPP's clownish Philadelphia stunt suppressed any votes, or that they'll try such a stunt again. In party chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz's combative interview with Fox's Megyn Kelly last week, he sheepishly announced that the party will not do "poll-watching" again. So the Glenn Beck-ish case against the Panthers has been that they're racist crazies who should be locked up. No one disagrees with the first part of that; on the second part, it's not pleasant to watch racist idiots yell at people as they do in a pre-election day video Beck keeps playing, but it's not illegal. For those of us who live in cities and have to sneak into metro stations past the Black Israelites and other such nincompoops, it's not even unusual.