How Did the Head of the New Black Panther Party Become a Peacemaker in Ferguson?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 19 2014 1:21 PM

How Did the Head of the New Black Panther Party Become a Peacemaker in Ferguson?

A gentler panther

Photo by Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

I keep linking to Emily Wax-Thibodeaux and DeNeen L. Brown's amazing story about the internal divisions among Ferguson protesters. When one progressive activist wondered whether the tales of "out of state" violent types were concocted by police, I pointed him to the story.

But I didn't put two and two together about this portrayal of the wise men trying to calm things down.

There is also another group: the elders.
Malik Shabazz, national president of Black Lawyers for Justice, said he has been patrolling West Florissant Avenue each night, trying to keep the peace. On Friday night, he used a megaphone, telling young people to go home.

Malik Shabazz is better known to consumers of cable news as the former leader of the New Black Panther Party, a singularly ineffective group that spent a decade showing up at civil rights rallies (or Philadelphia polling booths) in black military garb, and becoming a distraction for everybody. Shabazz was quoted, 20 years ago, telling Howard University students that "the Jews" killed Nat Turner and controlled the media and the Fed. Eleven years ago he was quoted doubting the numbers of Jews killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11. And since then he's popped up on Fox News to say offensive things. 

Now he's an "elder." This is a much better career choice for him. Shabazz has been making the rounds in Ferguson, asking for calm and respectful protests. In a CNN interview last night, Shabazz was identified only as an "attorney," denouncing the violent elements of the protests, asking if they were "infiltrators" of some kind.

"They're here, and they're provocateurs," said Shabazz. "They're trying it every night, and I'm determined with the forces that we are working with that we won't allow it. Even if I have to risk my life. I'm not going to see women and children out here hurt. And I'm not going to see the tide turned against us and move in favor of the police."

Shabazz's past has barely been mentioned in the coverage of Ferguson. And there are interlopers there, seeing a fantastic chance at stoking some "revolutionary" violence, as Charles Johnson has been reporting. And the New Black Panther Party guy, that minor TV supervillain, is telling them to knock it off.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.