Andy McCarthy has an important story over at National Review Online that does an outstanding job of demolishing many of the myths being propagated about the New Black Panther voter intimidation case. It is important, however, to highlight some specific testimony on one of those myths. One of the constant refrains heard from liberals in their attempt to diminish the importance of the New Black Panther scandal is that there is no evidence that any voters were intimidated or prevented from voting.That claim is patently false although it was repeated last night again by Abigail Thernstrom on NBC News.
For anyone who bothers to actually look at the record, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights received direct evidence on that very issue. Those critics also miss the point that it is a crime to attempt to intimidate voters and anyone assisting voters, which would include poll watchers, and no one watching the videotape could come to any conclusion other than the New Black Panthers were trying to intimidate people at that poll in Philadelphia.
On the issue of poll watchers, one of the witnesses at the first hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Chris Hill, testified on that specific point and what happened when he got to the polling place. He was responding to a desperate phone call for help from one of the two black poll watchers who were stationed at the polling place:
HILL: [Shabazz] immediately started with ‘What are you doing here, Cracker?’ And he and Mr. Jackson attempted to close ranks. I went straight between them through the door to find our poll watcher, who was inside the building at the time…he was pretty shaken up…he was visibly upset.
QUESTION: What did he tell you?
HILL: He was called a race traitor for being a poll watcher, credentialed poll watcher for the Republican Party as a black man, and that he was threatened if he stepped outside of the building, there would be hell to pay.
So there is witness testimony that both Black Panthers, including the one who was dismissed by the Justice Department, were physically threatening a poll watcher. And the witnesses made it clear that the two Black Panthers acted as a team, in concert, at the polling place.
On the issue of voters, Hill testified as follows:
QUESTION: How were third parties reacting to the presence and the actions of the Panther members?
HILL: People were put off when – there were a couple of people that walked up, a couple of people that drove up, and they would come to a screeching halt because it’s not something you expect to see in front of a polling place. As I was standing on the corner, I had two older ladies and an older gentleman stop right next to me, ask what was going on. I said, ‘Truthfully, we don’t really know. All we know is there’s two Black Panthers here.’ And the lady said, ‘Well, we’ll just come back.’ And so, they walked away.
Of course, no one knows if those voters ever came back – but we know for sure that they left without voting when Hill was there rather than try to get by the New Black Panthers. What is so odd about this is that Hill was then questioned about that testimony by Commissioner Abby Thernstrom, who has been one of the persons claiming there is no evidence that voters were kept from voting:
THERNSTROM: But otherwise, did you see anybody at the polling place who obviously intended to vote, and didn’t end up voting because of the presence of the New Black Panther Party members?
HILL: It was two women and a gentleman….They stopped right at the corner of the driveway, circular drive, where I was standing on the phone, and they said, ‘What’s going on?’ Truthfully, I didn’t really have a good answer for them…But at that exact moment in time, those people were not going near that doorway, and ma’am, I’m not as well versed as you are in these civil rights issues, but they were intimidated.
Bartle Bull, one of the other poll watchers who came to the precinct after the black poll watchers who were stationed there reported they had been threatened, testified on this point also:
BULL: One of them was waving a baton like that, slapping against his hand, pointing at people. And several people – I was more or less at the end of the driveway, and several people began to walk up the driveways, saw these guys, and then went back and didn’t go on to vote.
QUESTION: Did the individuals that you saw turn around, those were people that you believed were coming to vote?
BULL: Oh, yes, yes. That’s the only reason you walk along that long block on the pavement, and then go in the long driveway. And several walked in, saw this at the door, and walked back out the drive.
Keep in mind that Bull and Hill were only at the polling place for about an hour, and in that short amount of time they saw several people turn around and leave rather than run the thug gauntlet set up at the front door to the polling place. And there is no question that the poll watchers stationed inside the precinct were terrified because of the threats that had been made against them by the New Black Panthers.
So why haven’t any witnesses who were actual voters come forward? I talked to Chris Hill after his testimony before the Civil Rights Commission. As someone who knows Philadelphia and that neighborhood where these New Black Panthers live, he said that if he lived there he would be probably be too scared to come forward with testimony that crossed the NBPP. In short, intimidated voters often stay intimidated
It is time, once and for all, for critics of this case to stop claiming there is no evidence of intimidation – the evidence is there in the record for anyone who bothers to actually look for it. And it is not even necessary to win a case for attempted intimidation – and no one can rationally claim there was not an attempt to intimidate. Don’t forget a crucial point that keeps getting missed – the New Black Panthers never contested any of these charges.
After she heard Hill’s testimony, Commissioner Thernstrom admitted that those people “were intimidated…I mean I take seriously when anybody is intimidated, and I’m not dismissing that experience of theirs…but nevertheless, it seems to me the case of the New Black Panther Party actually blocking people from voting would be stronger if there were more than three people that we’re talking about here.”
Really? So how many people have to be intimidated and prevented from voting before it becomes a “serious” case? How many poll watchers have to be threatened before it becomes a “serious” case? I have great respect for Commissioner Thernstrom but she is quite simply wrong about this case, about the evidence presented, and about the law that applies.
The only people who don’t think this was a serious case of voter intimidation seem to be apologists for the administration who want to sweep this case under the table and make excuses for the inexcusable conduct of the political appointees who are running the Civil Rights Division and the Justice Department.