Voters at a precinct on Philadelphia’s Fairmount Street witnessed unusual sights and sounds on Election Day, Nov. 4, 2008. Two members of the New Black Panther party, King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson, stood within 15 feet of this polling station dressed in military-style black jackets, black berets, and black combat boots. Shabazz wielded a two-foot-long night stick.
“Cracker, you are about to be ruled by a black man,” one of the New Black Panthers told a white voter. They taunted others as “white devils.” Angela and Larry Counts, a black couple who served as GOP poll watchers, told authorities they felt endangered when the Panthers called them “race traitors.”
At an April 23, 2010, U.S. Civil Rights Commission hearing, Chris Hill, an eyewitness and roving poll watcher, explained under oath that he spoke with Larry Counts inside the precinct. “When I found him, he was not quite cowering, but he was definitely shook up,” Hill testified. “And he told me that he was called a race traitor by Mr. Shabazz . . . and that he was threatened if he stepped outside of the building, there would be hell to pay.”
A Dec. 22, 2008, Justice Department memorandum states that Mr. and Mrs. Counts “confirmed that they were afraid to leave the polling place until the Black Panthers had departed.” The memo adds that Angela Counts “wondered what might occur next and if someone might ‘bomb the place.’”
Legendary civil-rights attorney and liberal-Democrat activist Bartle Bull was at the Fairmount Street precinct. Bull’s left-wing credentials are not sterling. They are platinum. The former publisher of the Village Voice served as New York State campaign manager for Ted Kennedy’s 1980 presidential bid. He did the same for Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. As early as 1966, he watched polls and served Democratic candidates in such places as Midnight, Miss. “I saw nooses hung over the branches of trees,” he told the Civil Rights Commission.
Bull recalled that on the day Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, “the gentleman with the club,” King Samir Shabazz, “pointed the billy club at me and said, ‘Now you will see what it means to be ruled by the black man, Cracker.’ And the reason I recall that very well is because it struck me as ironic that having worked as a civil-rights lawyer and being threatened in Mississippi, I was now being threatened in this way here, and being called a cracker, frankly.”
So, the Panthers behaved menacingly, used some nasty language, and terrified at least two poll watchers. But did they actually intimidate voters? Eyewitnesses say they did.
• The DOJ memo states: “Attorney poll watcher Harry Lewis told us he saw voters appear apprehensive about approaching the polling location entrance behind the Black Panthers.”
• Chris Hill told that Civil Rights Commission: “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 [sic] two Black Panthers here.’ And the lady said, ‘Well, we’ll just come back.’ And so, they walked away.” Referring to the Panthers, Hill added: “I saw these guys. They attempted to intimidate me. I’m Army Infantry. I don’t intimidate, but they did stop those three people from voting at that second.”