Devil's work

New Black Panthers finally find the spotlight

"I'm willing to die for the blacks," said Hopkins, a dramatic fellow dressed in an outfit reminiscent of silk lounging pajamas--big billowing shirt, heavy gold necklace, funny blue shoes.

"If you're going to kill some white people, that's different," Muhammad told him.

"If the New Black Panthers have to kill me to talk..."
"Don't do it on my time," Muhammad responded angrily. "Do it on your time."
"...This is a public place," Hopkins said.
"You're creating a nuisance, brother," Muhammad said.

"...Call the motherfucking police," Hopkins said as Hakim Muhammad walked away. "I'm going to jail right now. I am going to jail."

Hopkins, seeing that a newspaper reporter was still hanging onto his every word, turned to me and threw out his arms magnanimously. "I'm willing to die right here for the coloreds," Hopkins said, referring back to Brazier's threat to "put a cap" in his behind. "He told me he's going to shoot me in my ass."

But before anybody could shoot him in the ass, the night's main attraction, Khalid Muhammad, glided up to the front door in a very nice black sedan. The mall security guard, Hakim Muhammad, snapped to attention; a rear car door flew open, and a swarm of dark-suited, bow-tied Muslims emerged, all walking briskly toward the mall's interior as they surrounded Khalid--an astonishingly good-looking man with a regal carriage and a hell of a colorful jacket.

The mall's front door flew open, and Khalid and his protectors burst through like a Secret Service detail on a deadly mission--"Somebody on the left! Somebody on the right!" shouted a Panther as they blew through. It began to dawn on me that I hadn't seen nothin' yet.

While Dallas expends time and energy and political capital trying to figure out ways to appease five punks with two guns--the number of New Black Panthers at the big rally last Wednesday--serious issues of race afflict the country.

The burning of black churches across the South is a real issue--an horrendous act that will only be stopped when everyone focuses on apprehending the hateful, lunatic people who are doing it. In contrast, the suitability of Bill Keever as president of the Dallas school board is, at best, interesting dinner conversation and--if Keever continues behaving as clownishly as he has these past few weeks--certain to remedy itself in short order.

Incredibly, though, these two stories have become intertwined, mostly because the New Black Panthers with their impossible-to-ignore shotguns and assault rifles have run hither and yon screaming equally loudly about both.

Which is why a crisis-sized news crew from CBS News attended last Wednesday's Panthers rally at the Rosa Parks Mall. Two women in the CBS crew--one from 48 Hours--joined me in line to be searched for weapons.

As everyone entered the room, men and women were separated by sex and patted down behind a screen by people who were definitely not law-enforcement officers. Seeing as how this was a mall--and the only people who seemed to have an obvious weapons fetish were the hosts--I had to ask why in the world this was necessary, and who in the world was doing it.

"The African-American people who are having this," a short, wiry woman who was obviously in charge of the patting replied. "You are in our house. If you don't like it, then you can leave."

Whose house? The mall owner's? The Black Panthers'? The Fruit of Islam's? And who was she? What was her name, and who did she work for?

"I am who I am," the woman told me. "I'm a citizen. And if you don't like it--and you don't think it's right--then you need to leave. And as you go out the door, I'll give you my name."

So I was searched. And my bag was searched. When it was over, and I was walking toward the tables where the press conference was going to be held, one of the CBS women quietly said to me, "You know, I thought that was a little strange, too."

Yeah. Just a little. But it was just a preview of what else was in store for us.

The event was to consist of questions and answers between the media and four people who were seated at a head table in front of 50 folding chairs. Those four people, flanked by their security guard, included Khalid Muhammad; a robed Fruit of Islam member named Ashra Kwesi; New Black Panthers president Aaron Michaels; and Thomas Muhammad, a protege of DISD board member Kathlyn Gilliam and a columnist for the Minority Opportunity News.

Michaels spoke first, setting the tone for the evening by making a general, sweeping denunciation of "the media, the FBI, the ATF, and...the Klan." A KRLD radio reporter asked him for a comment on the original Black Panthers' denunciation of his group earlier that day, including that the original Panthers were considering suing Michaels and his friends for using their name.

"I am who I am 24 hours a day," Michaels responded, employing the crypto-speak that appeared to be popular among this group. "I have nothing to say--no comment about my brothers and sisters anywhere."

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