Last week’s developments in the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case from Philadelphia should have come as no surprise to observers.
A quick recap: on election day last year, several members of the New Black Panther Party, one of whom was a credentialed Democratic Party poll watcher, stationed themselves at a polling station in Philadelphia. They dressed in military-style fatigues, at least one of them brandished a club, and they engaged in “coercion, threats, and intimidation, …racial threats and insults, …menacing and intimidating gestures, …and movements directed at individuals who were present to vote.” The men used racial epithets and boasted about how a black man was going to be president.
Well, the government suspected voter intimidation, a violation of federal law, and took the three men to court. The defendants refused to cooperate, not even bothering to show up, let alone offer any defense, so they were found guilty by default.
Right up until the Justice Department pulled a “never mind” and dropped all charges against them. The only sanction? One of them can’t come within 100 feet of a polling place with a weapon again.
As I said, this should have come as no surprise — especially in Philadelphia. The “City of Brotherly Love” has become a place where such tactics are openly tolerated.
On election day 2006, Democratic poll watcher Carlos Mantos decided his district was 100% Democratic, and therefore the Republicans had no business even showing up. So he took it upon himself to ban Republican poll watchers from the polling stations. He thought so little of this action that he boasted about it to a TV crew:
Mr. Mantos’s actions drew no sanction whatsoever.
Given that precedent, it is no great surprise that last year, the Black Panthers thought they could stand in front of the polls, armed, and inform everyone just how the election would turn out, without fear of legal reprisals.
They were right.
Perhaps in 2010 we can expect Philadelphia voters to be chaperoned into the voting booths by helpful Democratic “volunteers” to make sure they vote the right way.
And in 2010, nothing will come of it. At least, not from the Obama Justice Department.