Obama Administration, Law Enforcement Quietly Contained Potential Riot Instigators Ahead Of Zimmerman Verdict

Najee MuhammadAs the George Zimmerman not-guilty verdict captured the attention of America on Saturday night, Najee Shabazz Muhammad found himself quietly stewing in a jail cell in Atlanta.

Muhammad is commander of the New Black Liberation Militia, a black separatist organization based in Augusta. Last year, as protests over the Trayvon Martin shooting and Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law were escalating, Muhammad called for a “citizen’s arrest” of Zimmerman.

Thursday afternoon, just as assistant Florida state attorney Bernie de la Rionda began presenting the state’s closing arguments against Zimmerman, FBI agents detained Muhammad in an abandoned Augusta home, his friends say.

But rather than take him into custody themselves, Deputy Bradley Eagler of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office was called to the Eve Street address in Augusta to make the actual arrest. He arrested Muhammad on an outstanding warrant for a misdemeanor probation violation from Fulton County, 150 miles west in Atlanta, according to sheriff’s office records in Augusta and Fulton County.

“The FBI called us and we did the transport from here to there,” said Sgt. M. McDaniel, public information officer of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office in Augusta. “Beyond that, we weren’t involved.” 

Investigators first surrounded the home of Latoya Raiford, 25, in Augusta on Thursday, with whom he had been staying for a while, demanding to know where Muhammad was, she said. Agents wore ATF insignia on their uniforms, Raiford said, but the ATF field office denies their involvement in the arrest.

“He was squatting in an abandoned house around the corner,” Raiford said. 

Raiford said that Muhammad had been a source of “chaos” in her home in the weeks before he left. An element of that had been the strange people – presumably undercover police officers – in the neighborhood since Muhammad’s arrival. Before that, people had little police activity, she said.

“I’ve seen them on bicycles, I’ve seen them on foot,” Raiford said. “People in the community, showing them pictures, asking questions. … In this neighborhood, don’t no black men ride those cross-country cycling bikes,” she said.

The Fulton County jail has temporarily stopped taking visitors – probably while they fix the locks on the cell doors, the court website is a stunning unsearchable gallimaufry of failure and no one picks up the phone after regular hours. His arrest left him effectively incommunicado for the weekend.

“We’re still trying to figure out what happened, what the charges are,” said Minister Drew X, acting commander of the group. “He had an open warrant, and just now he got arrested? Why are the leaders who were prominent getting arrested?”

The timing is curious. So is FBI involvement in a misdemeanor probation violation arrest. Stephen Emmett, the FBI’s spokesman in Atlanta, is seeking additional information about the arrest for comment.

But the more radical black leaders who have been speaking out about the Martin shooting and the Zimmerman trial say it fits a pattern of intimidation – the legal means to pull the worst malcontents off the streets for violations of probation or parole or bond to limit the perceived risk of post-verdict violence.

“It is no secret that the New Black Panther Party and its national leadership are targeted, jailed, and slated for removal,” said Chawn Kweli, the group’s spokesman. “We have been painted as the virtual cancer of America.”

When President Barack Obama commented that “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” last March, many conservatives immediately concluded that the administration wanted to inject its politics into the case for partisan gain. That view metastasized during the trial, with the idea that the Obama administration might be fomenting race riots ahead of the verdict gaining currency in the right-wing blogosphere.

Monday, two days after the verdict, it’s become plain that the fears of Rodney King-style race riots in the wake of a not-guilty verdict were badly misplaced.

But sites like Judicial Watch and Breitbart.com linked the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service – a federal group tasked to prevent riots – to protest organizers. The Daily Caller, Fox News and the Heritage Foundation picked up the thread from there. Breitbart’s Lee Stranahan reported on Thursday that the Department of Justice never contacted the New Black Panther Party over threats to Zimmerman made during the rising protest in March last year as apparent evidence of the DoJ’s complicity in the fomentation of riot.

The pattern of arrests speaks to exactly the opposite supposition: that the Obama administration and law enforcement officials have been eager to crack down on potential riot instigators, creating the legal basis ahead of time to remove those most perceived to be inciters from the street.

Najee Muhammad is not alone among other potential post-verdict troublemakers who have found themselves in legal trouble of late.

Hashim Akhennaten Nzinga, a New Black Panther Party leader in Atlanta who went on CNN shortly after the shooting to offer a $10,000 bounty for the “capture” of George Zimmerman, was arrested by DeKalb County sheriff’s office deputies two days later for violating probation by allegedly possessing a handgun as a felon after allegedly selling a piece at a pawn shop across the street from Pine Lake in DeKalb County. He is out on a $10,000 bond and awaiting trial, said his attorney Mawuli “Mel” Davis.

Shortly after his arrest in March last year, FBI agents approached Nzinga in jail and asked him questions about his political activities, Davis said. “He definitely believes his arrested was politically motivated and that there was an effort to get him off the street.” Nzinga has been given permission in the past by his probation officer to travel out of state, but officials denied his request to travel to Florida on Friday, Davis said.

(Fun fact: Nzinga was part of U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney’s campaign security entourage, and was among the folks hurling anti-Semitic slurs at news reporters during her concession press conference in 2006.)

Minister King Samir Shabazz, a field commander for the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia who has called for white babies to be killed – and also, notably, one of the fellows with a nightstick at a Philly polling place during the 2008 election – was arrested on June 20 in Harlem for possessing an unlicensed handgun. Shabazz, whose legal name is Maruse Heath, is sitting in a jail cell at the George R. Vierno Center awaiting a July 18 court date, according to New York jail records.

Mikhail Muhammad, a New Black Panther Party leader who called for “eye for an eye” justice in the wake of the shooting, was arrested at his home in Jacksonville, Florida in May when police came to investigate allegations of false imprisonment in a domestic dispute with his wife. False imprisonment charges were subsequently dropped, but he was also charged with resisting arrest without violence when he barred police from a room in the house. He pled no contest to the misdemeanor in exchange for six months of probation according to Duval County court records.

Notably, Michelle Williams, a New Black Panther Party leader in Florida who made the most visible public threats against Zimmerman – including a racially-abusive “dead or alive” tirade in a radio interview for which she subsequently and tearfully apologized –  was arrested in October on second degree grand theft charges related to a real estate transaction. She pled guilty in May and is on probation until 2028.

The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies the New Black Panther Party as “a virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization whose leaders have encouraged violence against whites, Jews and law enforcement officers.” Sunday, mixed with calls to attend a march in New York on September 7 and racial invective toward white people and the justice system, the group’s Twitter account posted statements including “It’s silly and immoral to call for peace when war has been declared,” and “If you are taking to the streets, you have a right to do so, by all means take to the streets-stay there. We’re at war.”

The leader of the New Black Panther Party, Malik Zulu Shabazz, has not been arrested and also remains active on social media. Sunday, among other statements on his Facebook page, he wrote, “Do what you feel do what you please. I’m not a fireman and not a policeman.”

17 comments

  1. Scott65 says:

    So, in essence, conservative “propagandists” (because the ones you listed…thats what they are) tried to incite people into believing that there would be rioting with the blessing of the Obama administration, when in fact, just the opposite was occurring. I think the fact that there wasn’t rioting says a lot about the REAL leaders of the black community who, though they seemed despondent about the ruling, still said that they support the rule of law and that the jury spoke and they must respect that. When are people going to see these publications like “Breitbart” for what they are…hate mongering, divisive, liars that seem to try to divide this nation with a sense of glee albeit with sources like US magazine, doctored video, or disregarded facts. When is enough enough?

    • Dave Bearse says:

      FYI the bubble is a semi-permeable membrane. Stuff may pass through from inside out, but not outside in.

    • pettifogger says:

      It sounds like your point is that Breitbart and co said there would be rioting, and we’re seeing some of that. So why are they hate-mongerers again? Your willingness to suspend history and reality for the sake of some pseudo-academic political correctness doesn’t render the truth untrue. I don’t take Breitbart and the like as legit news sources, and they certainly are overly dramatic, but I don’t know that they’re wrong yet, and I think it is totally dishonest to leave out the other entities in this ordeal that have engaged in divisive hate mongering.

    • seekingtounderstand says:

      Or when are people going to see that the media only gives voice to leaders in the black community like Jackson and Sharpton, divisive to say the least, but give no voice to folks
      like Alveda King and other black leaders whom could change the world with building bridges.

  2. seenbetrdayz says:

    The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies the New Black Panther Party as “a virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization whose leaders have encouraged violence against whites, Jews and law enforcement officers.”

    eh, the SPLC says that about everyone, lol.

  3. Al Gray says:

    Add points for pointing out a new word for us.

    Dock him for “unsearchable gallimaufry” and getting too close to a tautology.

  4. Dave Bearse says:

    Did the call go out to close the gates in Cherokee County with Fox News reporting impending riots ‘n all, like those that were going to happen when upon Romney’s won?

  5. Dave Bearse says:

    Did the call go out to seal up the gated communities in Cherokee County after Fox News reported impending riots ‘n all, just like the the riots that were going to happen when Romney won?

    • George Chidi says:

      Are they running out of Internet, that I should be parsimonious with detail? Or, perhaps I should limit myself to Twitter-length reporting.

      I know you kid because you love, lady-cyborg-Google-Glass person.

      When someone is paying me, I’ll tailor my thoughts to a desirable length. Otherwise, I’m going to write until I think I’m done, damn it. When I go shorter, people think I’m either deliberately leaving important stuff out or making s–t up.

      1200 words. Half the length of a New Yorker piece. About the length of a Hitchens column. Try to keep up.

  6. Spacey G says:

    Arresting loudmouth, barely literate Black Panthers isn’t deemed all that majorly newsworthy, so it seems. Otherwise someone else, other than PP and some random, ill-educated Breitbart devotee, would have picked up this story. But did you have to go and embarrass the Richland County Sheriff’s Department by painting their commander as little more than a quickie car service for the feds? Jeez. They’ve got enough petty crimes to deal with in Augusta all day long.

    • George Chidi says:

      In retrospect, I get the indifference. What do you do with a story like this, exactly?

      But ask yourself: the FBI raids a house, looking for a black militant on the eve of the Zimmerman deliberations. The guy had been the subject of intense media interest when he was threatening Zimmerman last year. The feds then turn him over to local authorities on some penny-ante misdemeanor probation violation.

      When the feds come knocking on doors like this, shouldn’t someone be asking questions? Ask yourselves, which is rarer: a guy gets shot in a street fight, or the feds tromping after a race militant? One of these events made the news. Because one of these is easy to report.

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