BY HERITAGE.ORG – Last year, Attorney General Eric Holder told the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs that the Obama administration’s “commitment to Equal Protection – and to full participation in our nation’s elections – will not waiver. Never.” But Friday, The Washington Post published astory that completely undercuts that claim. The story itself breaks little new ground. Followers of this blog have already read all the details in the story. But the Post story does add confirmation from three Justice Department lawyers that the dismissal of charges against the New Black Panther Party and two of its members goes way beyond a slam dunk voter intimidation case.
The facts of the New Black Panther case are these: 1) On Election Day 2008, two members of the New Black Panther Party were filmed outside a polling place dressed in black berets, jackets, shirts, pants and boots; 2) one of the Panthers was brandishing a billy club; 3) witnesses testified that the Panthers intimidated voters and poll watchers; 4) after the Bush Justice Department filed suit, the Panthers failed to respond and on April 2, 2009, a court in Philadelphia entered a “default” against the defendants; 5) after President Obama was sworn in, his political appointees took great interest in the case; and 6) just days before the Justice Department was supposed to file for final judgment, the charges against three of the defendants were completely dismissed and the billy club wielder received a slap on the wrist.
The Washington Post story confirms all of these details and goes even further. The Post confirms the testimonies of former Department of Justice lawyer J. Christian Adams and current DOJ Christopher Coates that, since President Obama took power, there has been a marked hostility to race-neutral law enforcement at the Department of Justice. The Post reports:
Three Justice Department lawyers, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation from their supervisors, described the same tensions, among career lawyers as well as political appointees. Employees who worked on the Brown case were harassed by colleagues, they said, and some department lawyers anonymously went on legal blogs “absolutely tearing apart anybody who was involved in that case,” said one lawyer.
“There are career people who feel strongly that it is not the voting section’s job to protect white voters,” the lawyer said. “The environment is that you better toe the line of traditional civil rights ideas or you better keep quiet about it, because you will not advance, you will not receive awards and you will be ostracized.”
Not reported by the Post are the specific ways that the Obama DOJ is refusing to enforce the law in a race-neutral manner. Specifically, Coates, who as the Post reports was hired by President Bill Clinton from the American Civil Liberties Union, testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that: 1)Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes ordered DOJ attorneys only to enforce “traditional types of [voter intimidation] cases that would provide political equality for racial and minority language voters;” 2) Fernandes informed DOJ attorneys that it was the policy of the Obama administration not to enforce anti-voter fraud laws since Obama “was not interested in that type of issue, but instead interested in issues that pertained to voter access;” 3) Loretta King (appointed Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division by President Obama) specifically instructed Coates not to ask any job applicants whether they would be willing to “race-neutrally enforce the Voting Rights Act” because King “does not support equal enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.”
King and Fernandes have never responded to these allegations, and the Obama Justice Department has never denied that these statements were made. Instead, DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler has made blanket statements that: “The department makes enforcement decisions based on the merits, not the race, gender or ethnicity of any party involved. We are committed to comprehensive and vigorous enforcement of the federal laws that prohibit voter intimidation, as our record reflects.” The Obama administration does have a growing record on vigorous enforcement of federal laws. But Schmaler is dead wrong: it is not a race neutral one.
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