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Cracking the New Black Panther case

UPDATE: This post has been edited to correct an error in the original piece, which referred to one of the wrong commissioners.

I didn't attend Friday's Civil Rights Commission grilling of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez. The GOP-leaning organization was following up on a hearing last month on the case of members of the fringe New Black Panther Party who annoyed voters outside a Philadelphia polling place. Ryan J. Reilly of Main Justice attended Friday's session.

[Commissioner Gail] Heriot also asked why a more expansive injunction was not sought against the man [who stood outside the polling place]. She worried that access to public transportation could allow him to roam around surrounding counties intimidating voters.

“It’s easy for him to just hop on a bus,” she said. “He’s not so stupid that he doesn’t know just how to hop on a bus.”

“Well he could go to New Jersey I guess, so should we expand it to New Jersey?” asked Perez.

“Yes!” said [Commissioner Toddl] Gaziano and Heriot simultaneously. Gaziano later demanded that a special prosecutor be appointed to look into the case.

The farcical nature of the case has bothered Commissioner Abigail Thernstrom, a respected conservative historian on racial issues.

By David Weigel  |  May 14, 2010; 4:57 PM ET
Categories:  Race  
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