Michael Yaki, a Democratic member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, has released a statement criticizing the “far-right majority” on the Commission for scheduling the testimony of right-wing activist J. Christian Adams at a time when commissioners critical of the manufactured controversy surrounding the New Black Panthers Party case -- including Republican vice chairwoman Abigail Thernstrom -- could not attend. Yaki called the investigation into the case “shallow, expensive, and partisan” and “reminiscent of an inquisition, a star chamber, and a witch hunt.”
Yesterday, Thernstrom encouraged readers to “forget about the New Black Panther Party case,” which she called “small potatoes, commenting that ”too much overheated rhetoric filled with insinuations and unsubstantiated charges has been devoted to this case." Yet right-wing media continue to promote the phony allegations.
Read Commissioner Yaki's full statement after the jump:
Rather than engage in even a pretense of even-handedness, the Commission's far-right majority chose to ignore the fact that none of the three Commissioners who objected to the date of the hearing -- Commissioners Yaki, Arlan Melendez, and Abigail Thernstrom -- could attend. The Commission Chair, the General Counsel, and the witness could not find a convenient time nor bother to solicit our availability (after a holiday weekend, no less) prior to scheduling this hearing. The fact that this hearing is being held without either Democratic Commissioners Yaki and Melendez, despite our prior practice of always seeking to accommodate the scheduling concerns of all Commissioners, underscores the fact that this is another page in the Whitewateresque drama convened by the ultra-conservative right-wing of the Commission. In blatant disregard of the bipartisan charge of this Commission, the majority carries on without semblance of fairness in their zealous pursuit of a partisan and ideological agenda.
There exists ample evidence of voter intimidation that was swept under the rug by prior Administrations. However, the Commissioners in attendance continue to show that voter intimidation is not their real concern. Instead, they misrepresent the present facts, engage in sweeping generalizations, and have seen fit to ignore anything that might veer from their predetermined outcome. By catering to the schedule and personal views of Mr. Adams, this Commission seeks to elevate one person's account of a single incident into a generalized attack on the Administration's voter protection policy. Regarding Mr. Adams's schedule, it should be noted that he seems to have plenty of time to speak to every conservative media outlet in the country, but -- according to our General Counsel -- he had only had one day available between July 6th and 16th to appear before the Commission.
The plain truth is that two individuals engaged in a few hours of activity which, on its face, could possibly be construed as voter intimidation. One of them carried a nightstick. However, no witnesses saw them accost any voters. No witnesses saw them verbally or physically threaten any voters. On the other hand, if we are to conclude that “outfits” and demeanor can alone be intimidating, why did the Justice Department fail to take action against individuals in Arizona who not only displayed guns and home-made badges, but also accosted Latino voters? Why didn't the Justice Department investigate individuals and campaign committees in New Mexico and Pennsylvania who targeted minority and elderly voters with “official” statements and threats about their voting status that were legally and factually incorrect? These are the real questions on voter intimidation that the Commissioners here today have chosen to ignore time and again.
This investigation, such as it is, has been incredibly shallow, expensive, and partisan. There exist serious issues today involving discrimination and racism in this country that the Commission's far-right majority has ignored in its quixotic pursuit of a conspiracy and a policy that do not exist. These proceedings are reminiscent of an inquisition, a star chamber, and a witch hunt. They are not worthy of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.