Mr. Coates discussed in depth the DOJ's decision to dismiss intimidation charges against New Black Panther members who were videotaped outside a Philadelphia polling place in 2008.
"In lengthy and detailed testimony, Mr. Coates testified that the department cultivates a "hostile atmosphere" against "race-neutral enforcement" of the Voting Rights Act. He said civil rights attorneys stick to cases that involve minority victims, and he said the Black Panther case was dismissed following "pressure" by the NAACP and "anger" at the case within the Justice Department itself.Since last year, Coates has been transferred to the U.S. attorney's office in South Carolina. He said Friday that the Justice Department told him not to testify before the commission after he was first subpoenaed in December 2009.
Coates dismissed as weak the department's rationale for abandoning the case, saying the department let one of the Black Panther members off the hook because a local police officer had determined he was a Democratic Party poll watcher. Coates called it "extraordinarily strange" for the department to rely on this and urged the commission to consider what the legal backlash would have been if the Panthers had been members of the Ku Klux Klan. "To understand the rationale of these articulated reasons for gutting this case ... one only has to state the facts in the racial reverse," he said. Coates said that with the United States becoming increasingly diverse, it is "absolutely essential" that the law be enforced equally.
"As important as the mandate in the Voting Rights Act is to protect minority voters, white voters also have an interest in being able to go to the polls without having race-haters such as Black Panther King Samir Shabazz, whose public rhetoric includes such statements as 'kill cracker babies' ... standing at the entrance of the polling place with a billy club in his hand hurling racial slurs at voters," he said.
"Given this outrageous conduct, it was a travesty of justice for the Department of Justice not to allow attorneys in the voting section to obtain nationwide injunctive relief against" the defendants, he said. "
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