For some reason, the Justice Department is covering for the Black Panthers. For months, congressmen have asked the Justice Department a simple question: How could the department drop one of the worst voter-intimidation cases ever? The department’s only explanation was revealed in its dismissal filing with the court; the case was dropped because the defendants, two members of the New Black Panthers, offered no defense.
This is unsatisfactory grounds for such a serious civil rights abuse. As the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights summarized in a letter of inquiry to the department: the “defendants were caught on video blocking access to polls, and physically threatening and verbally harassing voters during the November 4, 2008 general election.” The defendants made racial threats to voters, and one of them was brandishing a night stick.
Frustration with Justice Department stonewalling boiled over Thursday when Republican members of Congress wrote to the department’s inspector general, asking him to “investigate whether improper political considerations led the Justice Department to dismiss” the case. The letter was signed by a list of prominent lawmakers with direct oversight responsibilities, including all the minority party members of the House Appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice and science and all but one of the Republican members of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights and civil liberties.
This isn’t the first attempt to get some answers from the Justice Department. Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, wrote the department’s Civil Rights Division on May 28. Virginia Republican Rep. Frank Wolf wrote Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on June 8. Even the Civil Rights Commission, which rarely issues letters without any dissent, has sent two letters to the department asking for an explanation. The numerous requests have received no response.
As Thursday’s letter from Congress states: “The dismissal of the Department’s case against the New Black Panther Party raises significant concerns about possible politicization of the Justice Department. The case in question was filed by the Department against members of the New Black Panther Party and two individuals affiliated with it. Significantly, one of those individuals carried credentials indicating he was a member of the local Democratic Committee.”
There is no justice at the Department of Justice when Black Panthers are cleared for terrorizing voters.