New Black Panthers back at Philly voting site

A member of the New Black Panther Party who was charged with voter intimidation in the 2008 election for standing outside a Philadelphia polling site was back Tuesday morning – in an official capacity.

Jerry Jackson, who was charged in the 2008 case along with Minister King Samir Shabazz, but later saw charges dropped by the Department of Justice, was seen early Tuesday outside a North Philadelphia voting site wearing the group’s trademark black beret, combat-style uniform and heavy boots. Fox News confirmed he is a designated poll watcher.

“No comment,” Jackson said when approached by a reporter at 1221 Fairmount Ave., in the city’s 14th Ward, where he lurked on Election Day in 2008.

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One voter who didn't mind Jackson's presence was Robin Spriggs, 50.

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"We need it," she said. "It doesn't matter the color, the creed or anything like that. They protect everyone."

There were also reports of New Black Panther Party members at polling sites in Cleveland, Ohio, where they have also maintained a presence at early voting sites. Critics complain that they are an intimidating presence and could discourage white voters, who may be more likely to vote Republican, from entering polling sites.

Unlike in the 2008 election, members of the organization labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center were not wielding billy clubs or forming clusters. In 2008, members of the New Black Panthers wore black paramilitary garb and stood in front of the doors leading to a polling place in Philadelphia. In that case, the Department of Justice later narrowed the charges against Minister King Shabazz and dismissed the charges against the party and Jackson.

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Dismissal of the charges prompted critics to complain that Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration showed racial bias. Christian Adams resigned from the department in 2010 in protest of the administration's handling of the case.

Holder has rejected claims that his department considered the race of white alleged victims of voter intimidation in dropping the charges. The case and its handling by the Department of Justice is currently being investigated by the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

Shabazz said in September that the New Black Panthers, who have called for the killing of whites and Jews, might monitor polling places again in 2012. But he said they would not carry night sticks or billy clubs.

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“But whatever we will do, it will be legal and lawful under the Constitution of the United States," Shabazz told “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.”

A group of retired Navy SEALs and other former special ops service members vowed to counter any attempt to intimidate voters by sending teams to sites in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Miami and Las Vegas. Former Navy Capt. Benjamin Brink told Philadelphia radio station IQ 106.9 FM more than a hundred former SEALs, Army Rangers, Delta Force operatives and Green Berets volunteered for the job. But he said his men will  not provoke confrontation, but rather "watch for intimidation, videotape it, if possible, and report it to the proper authorities.”

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Zack Stalberg, president and CEO of the Committee of Seventy, a Philadelphia government watchdog group, said his group had received no complaints as of midday Tuesday regarding the presence of New Black Panther Party officials at polling stations.

"We haven't received any complaints at all," Stalberg said.'s Joshua Rhett Miller contributed to this report.