WASHINGTON - Members of the Project 21 black leadership network are appalled that Attorney General Eric Holder used the race card to block congressional inquiries into the Justice Department's silence and possible mishandling of a race-fueled voting rights case.
"Eric Holder is sending a consistent and unfortunate message that we should expect justice to be applied only on the terms set by him and President Obama. This disregard for the rule of law is made worse by divisive rhetoric that is anathema to his sworn duties to uphold our Constitution as Attorney General," said Project 21's Jerome Hudson. "Holder's apparent willingness to turn a blind eye to equal justice is one more example of how radical and out of touch this presidency is with the American people."
Holder engaged in racial politics during a subcommittee hearing of the House Appropriations Committee on March 1. Representative John Culberson (R-TX) brought up that the U.S. Department of Justice was uncooperative with investigators from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights regarding allegations that political appointees intervened in a voting rights case against members of the New Black Panther Party charged with restricting the access of white voters to a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day 2008. Holder harshly criticized scrutiny of the case, calling it "inappropriate" to compare this case to past government defenses of civil rights, adding, "I think it does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line for my people."
"Holder's comment about 'my people' illustrates how the Attorney General sees the world through a color-coded lens," said Project 21 Fellow Deneen Borelli. "Accordingly, it's not surprising that the Justice Department under his leadership has not aggressively pursued the voter intimidation case regarding the Philadelphia members of the New Black Panther Party."
The three members of the New Black Panther Party were on the verge of being sentenced for the apparent voter intimidation when Obama political appointees reportedly ordered career attorneys at the Justice Department to settle the case.
Holder's March 1 outburst came after Culberson referred to comments made by veteran civil rights activist Bartle Bull, an eyewitness at the polling place. In an affidavit, Bull wrote: "I have never encountered or heard of another instance in the United States where armed and uniformed men blocked the entrance to a polling location." Bull considers the 2008 incident the most serious act of voter intimidation he has ever seen. Former career attorneys in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division also claim an environment of incivility exists toward cases involving minority defendants.
In several letters to President Barack Obama, Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie has called for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of political pressure being put on career attorneys at the Justice Department to settle the New Black Panther case prematurely.
Project 21's Borelli added: "Attorney General Holder should seek justice for all Americans and not just for individuals of his race. By sounding like Al Sharpton, Holder is demeaning his position as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States."
Project 21 is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research.