The New Black Panther Party, a black nationalist fringe group, is claiming that Tampa is "under siege" by white people, Republicans and Tea Partiers.
In a rant on Black Power Radio, Michelle Williams, the group's chief of staff, said that the Republican National Convention, which is being held in the city next week, had been put on curfew by the city. "In the city of Tampa, we are under siege by the Republican National Convention, headers of this collective-minded group of white people, tea partiers, tea baggers, people who hate black people," she said.
"Black people have to stay in our homes," she said. "They don't want any presence of anybody who looks like me, walks like me and talks like me to be anywhere near the Republican National Convention. The Republicans hate black people."
The NBPP has no connections to the original Black Panther Party, and are considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In recent years, the group has become a favorite villain among conservatives. In 2008, two NBPP members, including one holding a nightstick, stood outside a Philadelphia polling station in a largely black neighborhood and yelled at people arriving to vote. A conservative activist shot video of their activity, which resulted in right-leaning radio hosts and activists calling for an investigation. Federal authorities filed a lawsuit against the group, asserting that they were intimidating voters. But after looking into the incident, the Justice Department eventually dropped the suit, largely because no one had actually complained about being intimidated.
But many conservatives said the suit was dropped for political reasons, and said that Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department only prosecuted whites for violations of civil rights laws.
Abigail Thenstrom, a Republican appointee to the Justice Department, pushed back on that idea, saying that the legal bar for the charges against the group was higher than any of the evidence against it, waving off the group and its tactics as "small potatoes."
Get a grip, folks. The New Black Panther Party is a lunatic fringe group that is clearly into racial theater of minor importance. It may dream of a large-scale effort to suppress voting — like the Socialist Workers Party dreams of a national campaign to demonstrate its position as the vanguard of the proletariat. But the Panthers have not realized their dream even on a small scale. This case is a one-off.
Earlier this week, Republicans in Pennsylvania said the Justice Department's planned inquiry into the constitutionality of the state's new voter ID law was politically motivated, and argued that federal officials would be better served revisiting the 2008 New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case. A conservative SuperPAC called FightBigotry.com released an ad that President Obama endorsed and allowed anti-white racism, and the ad focused specifically on the NBPP voter intimidation suit.
The NBPP made waves earlier this year when it offered a $10,000 bounty for George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin. Williams later apologized for offering the bounty.