Eric Holder: Black Panther Case Focus Demeans ‘My People’

Josh Gerstein, Politico, March 1, 2011

Attorney General Eric Holder finally got fed up Tuesday with claims that the Justice Department went easy in a voting rights case against members of the New Black Panther Party because they are African American.

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The Attorney General seemed to take personal offense at a comment Culberson [Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas)] read in which former Democratic activist Bartle Bull called the incident the most serious act of voter intimidation he had witnessed in his career.

“Think about that,” Holder said. “When you compare what people endured in the South in the 60s to try to get the right to vote for African Americans, and to compare what people were subjected to there to what happened in Philadelphia–which was inappropriate, certainly that . . . to describe it in those terms I think does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line, who risked all, for my people,” said Holder, who is black.

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“To compare that kind of courage, that kind of action, and to say that the Black Panther incident wrong though it might be somehow is greater in magnitude or is of greater concern to us, historically, I think just flies in the face of history and the facts.,” Holder said with evident exasperation.

In a series of questions and comments earlier in the hearing, Culberson insisted that race had infected the decision-making process. “There’s clearly evidence, overwhelming evidence, that your Department of Justice refuses to protect the rights of anybody other than African Americans to vote,” the Texas Republican said. “There’s a pattern of a double standard here.”

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