Hopefully, this kind of thing will be kept to a minimum today. Fox News reports that voters complained of intimidation in Philadelphia when they saw a purported Black Panther poll watcher guarding the door to the polling station with a nightstick. Police apparently moved him along (transcript by TV Eyes):
JANE SKINNER: breaking election news, we have reports of possible voter intimidation in some way — pennsylvania. republicans saying that two black panthers have been blocking the doorway of one polling locations. rick, what are the details on this? what are you hearing?
RICK LEVENTHAL: i do not even know where to begin, but we have reached a polling place in the city of philadelphia. one of the two black panthers who was allegedly blocking the door is standing right over here, with an accused us of intimidating voters because we were here with a camera and microphone. he did not answer questions, other people here have confirmed that another person in black panther attire was holding a night stick and apparently the concern was that they were intimidating people who were trying to go inside to vote. a republican poll observer actually called the police, the police were here and we miss them, they came and left. that person called the police is here. why don’t you tell us — step down off the curb, if you do not mind. what is going on here?
CITIZEN: we got a phone call that there was intimidation going on. i walked up to the door, two gentlemen in black panther guard, one brandishing a nightstick, standing in front of the door. they closed ranks as i walked up. i am a veteran, that does not scare me. i went inside and found full- watchers, they said they had been here for an hour — i went inside and found poll-watchers, they said that they had said not to let people outside because black people are going to win no matter what. at that point, i spoke to him, we would not get into a fistfight, i said, and i called the police.
LEVENTHAL: the person with the nightstick was escorted away, which i just confirmed inside. but the implication is that you were telling me that the black panthers were there to intimidate white voters from coming to this location?
CITIZEN: anyone who is not going their way, i do not know. someone in front of a polling place with a nightstick, that is intimidating for all voters.
LEVENTHAL: this is the first time i have heard of black panthers being stationed outside of a polling place. the one gentleman who is still here, he is a poll-watcher?
CITIZEN: yes, and he can wear what he wants.
LEVENTHAL: the other person was not allowed to be there with a nice that?
CITIZEN: you cannot stand with a nightstick anywhere, that is a weapon. obviously, you cannot stand around with a weapon menacingly in your hand under any circumstances.
LEVENTHAL: that is situation, as far as we know it. we have heard of other incidents in the city, including voting machines breaking down. we heard of an incident not far from here where far — all three machines broke down. people did wait, most of them. lines have dissipated. i have not made it inside yet, we had a skirmish in front of the door. apparently there is voting going on as well. at this point, apparently anyone who wants to vote here can vote here.
SKINNER: i know that they do not have enough people to man ever falling site, but as far as you understand the police have come and gone. is anyone monitoring in case someone is still hanging around?
LEVENTHAL: well there are poll watchers still standing here, we’ve been to at least a half a dozen polls around here and I haven’t seen any police officers, they don’t want a police presence to intimidate some voters, they did escort one gentleman out of here
SKINNER: It’s true in some places they don’t want police on sight, plenty going on there for you.
A nightstick wouldn’t get me out of line, I can tell you that. The police don’t need to station themselves in the precincts, but they have to be responsive — and it sounds like they were. Bear in mind that Philadelphia is where “street money” comes into play for Democratic GOTV efforts; this may not be a “Black Panther” at all, but just an ordinary thug hired to look menacing enough to frighten off the weak-kneed. On the other hand, as Michelle reports, the New Black Panther Party said they would send people to the polls to scare off “racist forces [that want to] slaughter our babies or commit other acts of violence against the black population, nor our black president.”
Apparently, that includes all voters supporting John McCain.
We’ll keep an eye on any more reports of voter intimidation. This is going to be a long, long day.
Update: This video makes it even more plain:
Note the patch on the uniform. That’s the NBPP.
Update II: Here’s video of the cops kicking them out: