By Carole on Jul 9, 2010
Republican Congressional candidate Allen West of Florida issued a statement today claiming politics was the reason the Obama administration declined to prosecute the New Black Panther Party on voter tampering charges. "For an Administration that promised a new era in race relations, Obama and the Democrats in Congress have demonstrated that race will continually be exploited for political gain," said Mr. West who is African-American. (source)
Mr. West was referring to the case in which, according to witnesses, two members of the New Black Panther Party threatened white voters on Election Day in 2008, flinging insults like "white devil" and "you're about to be ruled by the black man, cracker." One of the men was clearly seen holding a billy club on a now infamous video. Charges against the men were dropped for what the US Justice Department cited as a lack of evidence but a former DOJ attorney has accused his ex-superiors of ignoring white voters' rights and creating a systematic "one-way" approach in which only minorities are protected. (source)
The federal government's refusal to prosecute this case in spite of videotaped evidence against the would-be defendants confirms Mr. West's accusation that the Obama administration's vision of a new era in race relations is not what Candidate Obama promised. Instead of furthering the cause of equality under the law, the Obama Justice Department is being used as a tool to shelter minorities from prosecution (in addition to this voter intimidation case there is the pending federal lawsuit against Arizona's new immigration law).
Meanwhile, that same Justice Department announced today it will conduct an independent review of a California case already decided by a jury to determine whether or not it merits federal prosecution. In that case, an Oakland transit officer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of a man who was resisting arrest. The victim was shot in the back while he lay face-down because, according to the officer, he mistakenly drew his gun instead of his taser.
The jury had a choice between second-degree murder and lesser charges. While they believed that the officer didn't mean to kill the victim, they decided his behavior was still so negligent that it was criminal and therefore convicted him of involuntary manslaughter which carries a sentence of two to four years. (source)
But the verdict by a duly sworn jury who heard all the evidence in a state court is evidently not enough in President Obama's new era in race relations. The now-convicted officer involved is white, the victim was black and violent protests have begun throughout California so the Justice Department will, according to their statement, "conduct an independent review of the facts and circumstances to determine whether the evidence warrants federal prosecution." (source)
Will they use the same criteria to determine whether the evidence in that case warrants prosecution that they used in the New Black Panther voter intimidation case or will race, as Allen West claims, continue to be exploited by the Obama administration for political gain?
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