The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act against the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and three of its members alleging that the defendants intimidated voters and those aiding them during the Nov. 4, 2008, general election.
The complaint, filed in the United States District Court in Philadelphia, alleges that, during the election, Minister King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson were deployed at the entrance to a Philadelphia polling location wearing the uniform of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, and that Samir Shabazz repeatedly brandished a police-style baton weapon.
“Intimidation outside of a polling place is contrary to the democratic process,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Grace Chung Becker. “The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed to protect the fundamental right to vote and the Department takes allegations of voter intimidation seriously.”
According to the complaint, party Chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz confirmed that the placement of Samir Shabazz and Jackson in Philadelphia was part of a nationwide effort to deploy New Black Panther Party members at polling locations on Election Day. The complaint alleges a violation of Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits intimidation, coercion or threats against “any person for voting or attempting to vote.” The Department seeks an injunction preventing any future deployment of, or display of weapons by, New Black Panther Party members at the entrance to polling locations.
The New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, which claims active chapters nationwide, is distinct from the Black Panther Party founded by Bobby Seale in the 1960s.
The Civil Rights Division enforces the Voting Rights Act of 1965. To file complaints about discriminatory voting practices, including acts of harassment or intimidation, voters may call the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931. More information about the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice’s web site at www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/index.htm.