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Once Again, Arson Follows New Black Panther Protest

A pipe bomb damages Korean-owned A-1 Grocery store following sidewalk protests by the New Black Panther Party.

Members of the New Black Panther Party made clear how they felt about the A-1 Grocery in Washington, D.C. In a week of sidewalk protests, they told blacks to boycott the Korean-owned store and led chants of "Death to the bloodsucker," "Shut them down!" and "Black power!"

One unidentified protester reportedly called into a megaphone, "We will use all means necessary, any means necessary, to shut this store down."

Then a pipe bomb exploded on Nov. 30, charring the A-1 storefront. Spray-painted across the wall were racial epithets and the words "Burn them down, Shut them Down, Black Power".

Malik Zulu Shabazz, the New Panther Party's national spokesman who had organized the A-1 boycott, said his group had "absolutely nothing to do" with the attack, and no charges have been filed.

The boycott started after a Nov. 22 dispute between the A-1 owner and a black teenage girl over the price of a 65-cent ice cream bar. The disagreement escalated into a melee in which the store was ransacked.

Shabazz lay the blame for his boycott on "Asian merchants" and ignored accusations from a grocers' association that he was inspiring "racial hatred."

The incidents recall a still-unsolved 1994 arson of a Wedowee, Ala., high school, whose white principal had recently made headlines for banning interracial dating at his school's prom. Hours after a New Panther leader spoke at a secret meeting nearby, an arsonist burned the school to the ground.

The New Panthers, who are unrelated to the original Black Panthers of the 1960s, also made news in November in Norfolk, Va. Hoping to restore "civility" to city council meetings after an inflammatory speech by local Panther leader Michael Muhammad, the city council voted to restrict public comment at meetings. In retrospect, one of Muhammad's remarks stood out.

Muhammad pointed to the sunset above the city skyline outside. "I see how much it resembles fire," he said. "Looks good to me."