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New Black Panther Party National Leader Faces Weapons Charges

An infamous leader of the racist New Black Panther Party, known nationally for his boiling hatred of white people and apparent attempt to intimidate voters in 2008, is slated to appear in a New York City courtroom today to face charges of illegally carrying a loaded, unlicensed handgun and wearing prohibited body armor.

The Philadelphia Daily News reports that King Samir Shabazz, whose real name the newspaper said was Maruse Heath, was arrested last Thursday in Harlem, where he was reportedly helping plan a march this September to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Million Youth March. That rally, led by another white-hating black nationalist, featured exhortations to kill police and dozens of arrests.

The Daily News also quoted Shabazz speaking on a presumably recent “black-power radio show,” although it did not say when he spoke. Shabazz reportedly said that black people should form militias to kill whites, attack them with pit bulls, pour acid on them and raid nursery schools to “kill everything white in sight.” Shabazz, who is the Panther’s national field marshal, added, “I would love nothing better than to come home with a cracker’s head in my book bag,” the paper reported.

The New Black Panther Party is unrelated to the original Black Panther Party, which was militant but not racist. Officials of the original Panthers have repeatedly denounced the later organizations as a “black racist hate group,” and have even sued it for stealing its name and logo. Although courts ruled for the original party, that ruling has never been enforced and the newer group’s name remains unchanged.

Shabazz has come to national attention before, when he and another member of the Panthers showed up in 2008 wearing military style fatigues at a Philadelphia polling station. Shabazz, who was then the head of the local Panther chapter, brandished a nightstick and made threatening remarks to several voters. The Panthers suspended the chapter and criticized Shabazz, but that distancing didn’t last long.

The Justice Department under President George W. Bush opted not to pursue criminal charges in the case, instead leveling civil charges. The government won the case by default when the Panthers failed to show up in court, but the Obama administration eventually decided to drop most of the charges, arguing that it wasn’t proven that the Panthers had engaged in voter suppression. Many right-wing groups attacked Obama over the case, accusing him of protecting black racists.

Officials of the New Black Panther Party have decried Shabazz’s recent arrest and $75,000 bail, claiming that his weapon was found after an illegal stop and describing him as a political prisoner. A support rally, entitled “Stop the Attack on the Million Youth March,” is scheduled for July 1 at a restaurant in New York.

The Panthers are known for their confrontational style. In 1998, after a black man was dragged to death behind a pickup truck in Jasper, Texas, a group of armed party members confronted Klan protesters in that East Texas town, and violence very nearly erupted. Similarly, in March of last year, a local Florida leader of the group made headlines after put a $10,000 “bounty” on the head of a neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.

The group is also known for its incendiary racism and anti-Semitism. Shabazz, for instance, said in a 2009 National Geographic documentary, “I hate white people. … We keep begging white people for freedom! No wonder we not free! Your enemy cannot make you free, fool! You want freedom? You going to have to kill some crackers! You going to have to kill some of their babies.”

According to the Daily News, Shabazz faces a mandatory minimum of 3½ years and up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the recent weapons charges.

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