August 1, 2009
Eric Holder's Hate Crime Color SchemeBy Jan LaRue
Imagine the Ku Klux Klan in full regalia standing before a polling place deep in Dixieland hurling racial insults at black people arriving to vote in the last election. Imagine further a Republican-run U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) dropping the civil complaint against the KKK that had been filed by a Democrat-run DOJ.
Unless you've dropped acid, your fantasy life probably can't get you there.
The Obama DOJ has admitted dropping a civil complaint filed by the Bush DOJ on Jan. 7, 2009, accusing members of the New Black Panther Party of "wearing black berets, black combat boots, black dress shirts and black jackets with military-style markings, brandishing a 2-foot-long nightstick and issuing racial threats and racial insults" at voters in Philadelphia, during November's election," according to an exclusive in The Washington Times on July 30. Members of Congress want to know why.
Fox News ran a story with an eyewitness at the scene on Nov. 4. The Bush DOJ had sought an injunction against the Panthers to prevent further violations of the 1965 Voting Rights Act:
Eric Holder, the newly appointed Attorney General of the United States, told the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs on June 17: "We will not tolerate murder, or the threat of violence, masquerading as political activism," according to Devlin Barrett writing for Breaking News 24/7. "So let me be clear. The Justice Department will use every tool at its disposal to protect the rights ensured under our Constitution."
The DOJ Web site states: "If you know of activities that intimidate, coerce, threaten, or oppress voters based on race, color, religion, or national origin, please contact the Criminal Section." Holder needs to explain why its "Criminal Section" isn't prosecuting the Panthers on felony charges of violating 18 U.S.C. § 245. Section 245 states:
Holder was certainly aware of Sec. 245 when he testified before Congress on June 25. He quoted the section urging Congress to pass a new "hate crimes" law which would allow the federal government to prosecute crimes based on sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability even if the victim wasn't engaged in a federally protected activity. Holder "cited the recent killing of a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The alleged assailant is a white supremacist."
Holder said the expansion of the hate crime law was needed if states lack the "capacity," "willingness" or "desire to prosecute these kinds of cases," even though he does not think "that there is a trend among the states or local jurisdictions in failing to go after these kinds of crimes," according to columnist Debra Saunders.
Since Pennsylvania hasn't indicted the Panthers, wouldn't Holder's logic compel that the feds should? If DOJ can't make the case under Sec. 245 against armed Black Panthers who told Chris Hill, a white Republican poll watcher, "White power don't rule here," and called Larry Counts, a black Republican poll watcher a "race traitor," why is Holder confident that DOJ can successfully prosecute hate crimes based on something as subjective as "perceived gender identity"?
Or is it Holder's goal simply to chill politically incorrect speech?
Holder's response to a question by Sen. Jeff Sessions leads to that conclusion:
Since religion is one of the classes included in the definition of hate crimes, what authority does Holder have to exclude the attack on the minister from being "covered by the statute"?
Holder, the first black U.S. attorney general, gave a speech at DOJ in honor of Black History Month on Feb. 18, just 16 days after his confirmation. He used the occasion to tell us that the United States is "essentially a nation of cowards" when it comes to race relations.
Unless Holder considers "brandishing a 2-foot-long nightstick" just an innovative invitation to "talk with each other about things racial," it appears that his DOJ is cowering before the New Black Panthers.
Since the statute of limitations hasn't run on filing felony charges under Sec. 245, Mr. Hill and Mr. Counts should request a conversation with Holder about "unresolved racial issues" in Philadelphia.
Maybe Holder will have them over for a beer.
Jan LaRue is Senior Legal Analyst with the American Civil Rights Union; former Chief Counsel at Concerned for Women; former Legal Studies Director at Family Research Council; and former Senior Counsel for the National Law Center for Children and Families.