On Wednesday, there were conflicting reports from Reuters about whether the New Black Panther Party has instructed its followers to carry firearms when they stage a rally in front of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next week.
Ohio is an open carry state with a license required only for open carry in an automobile. Earlier today, Reuters reported that the New Black Panthers were going to take advantage of Ohio firearms law when they show up for a demonstration outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next week.
The New Black Panther Party, a “black power” movement, will carry firearms for self-defense during rallies in Cleveland ahead of next week’s Republican convention….
Several other groups, including some supporters of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, have said they will carry weapons in Cleveland.
“If it is an open state to carry, we will exercise our second amendment rights because there are other groups threatening to be there that are threatening to do harm to us,” Hashim Nzinga, chairman of the New Black Panther Party, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“If that state allows us to bear arms, the Panthers and the others who can legally bear arms will bear arms.”
Nzinga said he condemned the Dallas shootings.
“The New Black Panther Party is not instructing anyone in any way, shape, form, or fashion, to bring weapons to Cleveland,” Hashim Nzinga said in the statement. “Any person (outside of NBPP) who exercises that ‘right’, only does so as a personal choice, not by the instructions of the NBPP National Chairman, any of our National staff, or membership.”
Reached by phone on Wednesday evening, Nzinga said a Reuters story published on Tuesday misrepresented his statements. “The truth and honesty don’t sell,” he said.
(To give the devil his due, Nzinga may have just been speaking personally, or about the choices he and his cohort were making to tool up, and not issuing a ‘directive’, in which case he may be technically correct.)
Regardless of whether NBP members carry firearms due to an official directive or just because they think it’s a good idea, Ohio law appears to be pretty clear – it’s indeed “legal for protesters to carry weapons at demonstrations outside the convention under that state’s ‘open carry’ law….”
The police are viewing the situation with a bit of trepidation. Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association has urged demonstrators to refrain from carrying firearms.
I partially agree with Mr. Loomis.
On the one hand, carrying pistols at a demonstration just seems like a good idea, particularly in the tense and somewhat violent political climate that exists after the events of the past week/month/year/presidential term/etc. Handguns are, by their nature, defensive weapons, the effective range of which is measured in feet.
On the other hand, rifles — the “queen of personal weapons” as the late Col. Jeff Cooper famously remarked — are offensive weapons. They’re a solution to the problem of being confronted by a bunch of armed, nasty fellows who are actively seeking to do you harm from a football field or two away. Whatever their intentions, a bunch of guys with pistols strapped to their hips are simply prepared to defend themselves if they’re attacked. A bunch of guys with rifles slung over their shoulders are prepared for both defense and offense.
Bringing rifles to a political rally seems unwise to me due to the message it sends: we want to achieve our political goals, and we have an army ready to fight if you oppose us. That’s the kind of thing Ben Franklin must’ve been weighing when he said, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” I’m not going to go to the mat on that one – it’s my opinion on political tactics. Obviously, rights are rights, and — as Dean pointed out earlier — even in Dallas last week, open carrying wasn’t the issue at all.
Nevertheless, as my old constitutional law professor used to say, “wise” is not the standard for behavior that is legal.
If you believe the Southern Poverty Law Center, the New Black Panther party is a “virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization whose leaders have encouraged violence against whites, Jews and law enforcement officers.” The SPLC offers these examples of the kinds of things the past NBP leadership has said:
“Our lessons talk about the bloodsuckers of the poor… . It’s that old no-good Jew, that old imposter Jew, that old hooked-nose, bagel-eating, lox-eating, Johnny-come-lately, perpetrating-a-fraud, just-crawled-out-of-the-caves-and-hills-of-Europe, so-called damn Jew … and I feel everything I’m saying up here is kosher.”
— Khalid Abdul Muhammad, one of the party’s future leaders, Baltimore, Md., Feb. 19, 1994
“Kill every goddamn Zionist in Israel! Goddamn little babies, goddamn old ladies! Blow up Zionist supermarkets!”
—Malik Zulu Shabazz, the party’s national chairman, protesting at B’nai B’rith International headquarters in Washington, D.C., April 20, 2002
“I hate white people. All of them. Every last iota of a cracker, I hate it. We didn’t come out here to play today. There’s too much serious business going on in the black community to be out here sliding through South Street with white, dirty, cracker whore bitches on our arms, and we call ourselves black men. … What the hell is wrong with you black man? You at a doomsday with a white girl on your damn arm. 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!”
— King Samir Shabazz, head of the party’s Philadelphia chapter, in a National Geographic documentary, January 2009….
The SPLC goes on to document some of the other beliefs of the NBP:
A document on the NBPP website entitled “The Nationalist Manifesto” claims that white men have a secret plan to commit genocide against the non-white races. It also refers to black people who condone mixed-race relationships as the “modern day Custodians [sic] of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
NBPP members also hold black-supremacist religious beliefs. Some think that blacks are God’s true “chosen people” and that the people normally called “Jews” actually are impostors (this ideology is remarkably similar to the white racist theology of Christian Identity, which says whites are God’s real chosen people). They believe that blacks are naturally superior to people of other races. In September 1997, Khalid Muhammad said that he could not be anti-Semitic because Jews had no claim to the term “Semite.”
Members of the original Black Panther Party, which has no connection to the NBPP, have heavily criticized the New Black Panther Party. An open letter from the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation, which is run by members of the original Black Panther Party, decries the NBPP for being a hateful and unconstructive group. Bobby Seale, a famous founding member of the original Panthers, calls the organization “a black racist hate group.”
Got that? The original Black Panthers think that the NBP goes too far. The NBP is bad news. I want nothing to do with these people.
But…if there’s no evidence that the NBP is planning to do anything more than protest, wave a few banners, shout a few racist obscenities and then pack it in and go home…well, they’re citizens, right? They have every right to do that. Rights aren’t optional just because some of our fellow citizens are loathsome.
If there’s evidence that they plan to stage a riot, or engage in any kind of violence, then the Cleveland PD (and other security services) should come down on them. Hard and fast.
But absent that evidence, yes, they should be allowed to demonstrate while carrying firearms — with rifles. That’s what the word “right” means.
No, I’m not happy about this. Emotionally, it seems foolish, an unwarranted risk, to stand by and let a group like the New Black Panther Party stage a protest outside a major political rally while armed. I’m a little concerned about how this will play out. But rights aren’t optional. Much virtual ink has been spilled here and elsewhere talking about the balance between liberty and safety, and how we’ve tilted it toward liberty in America. These aren’t principles that should only be honored in the breach.
So, New Black Panthers, go ahead. Exercise your rights like men elsewhere in the world can’t. Show us that you’re better than we have any reason to expect. Maybe even learn that for all of its faults, the land you apparently despise protects your rights in ways that would surprise you.
The rest of us — if you’ll pardon the cliche — should put our faith in God, and keep our powder dry.