The communist and racist New Black Panther Party plotted to bomb St. Louis’ Gateway Arch and assassinate local law enforcement officials, but the Justice Department so far has limited its prosecution of the group to an indictment of two members on minor gun charges.
The soft treatment for activities that normally would have brought federal terrorism charges appears to be part of efforts by Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department to "go soft" on the racist group, according to former Justice official J. Christian Adams.
"I have always been perplexed why these guys get special treatment," said Adams, who worked in the Justice Department Civil Rights Division and noted a similar conciliatory legal treatment of New Black Panther Party members in a 2008 case of voter intimidation by the group in Philadelphia.
Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi declined to comment on the Black Panther bomb plot and would not say whether additional charges in the case are pending.
In the earlier case against the Panthers, voter intimidation charges were dropped by the Justice Department against the Panthers, and charges were downgraded against one group member, King Shabazz, in what critics say was an effort to show official favoritism toward the group.
Adams’ 2011 book, "Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department," includes a photograph of then presidential candidate Barack Obama marching in Selma, Alabama, with members of the New Black Panther Party in March 2007.
Two members of the Panthers, Brandon Orlando Baldwin and Olajuwon Ali Davis, were indicted Nov. 19 on federal weapons charges in St. Louis. The two-page indictment, however, made no mention of the bombing or assassination plot. It stated that the two men had made false statements to a Cabela’s sporting goods store in seeking to purchase two .45 caliber pistols.
Adams said he viewed the U.S. attorney’s failure to include the pipe bomb charges in the indictment as a significant omission. The use of pipe bombs in a conspiracy or plot normally would result in filing of federal terrorism charges, he said. "Here, once again, you have Justice giving these guys soft treatment," Adams said in an interview.
St. Louis police spokeswoman Shron Jackson declined to comment on the case and referred questions to the U.S. attorney in St. Louis. The U.S. attorney’s office referred questions to the Justice Department.
"I am not commenting period, other than to relay to you that the only document released by the court is the indictment," said Marc Raimondi, a Justice Department spokesman, adding that he would not confirm or deny that additional charges related to the bomb plot may be pending.
Raimondi did not respond when asked if handling of the St. Louis case indicated that the Justice Department was not pursuing alleged New Black Panther Party criminal activities aggressively.
The Panther plot was uncovered by St. Louis police who apparently had the group under surveillance. According to news reports, New Black Panther Party members discussed using pipe bombs to blow up the Gateway Arch. The plot also called for killing St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch and Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported last week, quoting sources close to the investigation.
The newspaper stated that Davis was the leader of the plot and that it called for planting an explosive device in the observation deck at the top of the arch.
Police raided two St. Louis buildings as part of the probe although documents in the case have been sealed. Further charges in the case were expected, the newspaper reported Nov. 27.
The indictment of Baldwin and Davis came three days before the decision by a county grand jury not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. The decision set off burning and looting in Ferguson and racially charged protests around the country.
The New Black Panther Party issued a statement denouncing the gun charges against Baldwin and Davis a "bold faced lie" and "frame up."
"We believe the charges against Olajuwon Ali [Davis] and Brandon Muhammad [Baldwin] to be trumped up and baseless," the statement said.
Regarding reports the two were linked to plans to blow up the Arch and kill police during the Ferguson racial unrest, the group said the allegations are "totally unfounded" and contrary to New Black Panther Party rules.
"The New Black Panther Party, does not teach, endorse, or allow its members to commit acts of violence against anyone regardless to the circumstance, unless in imminent danger according to the rules of self-defense," the statement said
If the two members are found guilty of illegal acts, they will be expelled from the party, the statement said.
On the Panther Party, Adams, the former Justice Department official, said: "These people have a visceral hatred of three things: The white man, America, and Jews, and they will do anything they can to destabilize America."
The Party has exploited racial tensions in Ferguson to spread its separatist agenda, Adams said.
Davis, who identified himself as "minister of law" for the New Black Panther Party’s Missouri chapter, told supporters at a rally in October that the shooting of Brown was "not the first … and it won’t be the last, if we do not unite," the Post-Dispatch reported.
"Divided, we lose brothers and sisters," Davis said. "If you do not unite, put aside your difference and unite, you can expect no changes in the future. We must change our minds, our systems and ourselves."
The group is an offshoot of the 1970s radical group the Black Panthers. It began operating in 1990 and the group’s web site contains the statement that the sole purpose of a Black Panther is "to be a revolutionary in the Black/Afrikan People’s liberation struggle, and to mobilize the masses towards self determination."
Adams said the Panthers also called for the seizure of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, for his role in 2012 shooting of Black teen Trayvon Martin in Florida.
The group also sought to exploit the 2006 claim by a black stripper that she was raped by a group of Duke University lacrosse players. That case eventually fell apart after the accuser was determined to be lying.
According to Adams, the Obama administration has sought to play down the capabilities and threat posed by the group. "The narrative they use is that the group is a bunch of low-level jokers," he said.
An FBI annual report on domestic extremism stated that in October 2013 the New Black Panther Party was planning to set up "a team to conduct online research against and ‘go after’ police officers who shot and injured black males."
The report said black separatist extremists like the New Black Panther Party "seek physical, social, political and economic separation from non-blacks."
"They fund extremist activity through both violent and white collar crimes and target, [U.S. government], military, and law enforcement personnel and facilities in retaliation for alleged oppression and past wrongdoing," the report "2013 National Threat Assessment for Domestic Extremism" says. The report is dated Aug. 13, 2014.
"They have the potential to respond to racially charged social and political events with violence."
The report said black extremists engage in crimes including mortgage fraud, counterfeiting, drug, and weapons trafficking and showed "a desire to form relationships with foreign entities."
The threat posed by black separatist extremists "remained static" in 2012 and 2013. However, the movement could expand this year through leadership charges, support from like-minded extremist groups and "high profile racially charged crimes or events, or certain specific U.S. foreign policy actions," the report said.
"Black separatist extremists may also seek stronger ties with foreign governments in exchange for financial resources," the assessment stated, adding that "barring significant developments," the threat from black extremists would remain low.
An alternative analysis in the report warned that black extremists "could reinitiate violence at historically high levels seen for the movement in the 1970s, when bombings, assassinations, hijackings, and hostage-takings occurred."