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New Black Panther Party rallies near Duke, NCCU

Approximately 20 members of the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense demonstrated at the West Campus gates in support of the exotic dancer who alleged she was raped by three members of the men's lacrosse team.

At the intersection of Duke University Road and Chapel Drive, representatives of the NBPP were joined by local community members as they called for justice in the lacrosse case and promoted the rights of black women. After an unsuccessful attempt to enter campus, the organization, swarmed by media, marched to 610 N. Buchanan Boulevard-the house where the rape allegedly took place March 14.

At both the campus gates and North Buchanan house, the New Black Panthers listed eight demands. They called for legal proceedings to move forward against the two players indicted in the case and for an "end to all hostile attacks and slander" against the alleged victim.

"We demand a vigorous prosecution and a thorough investigation of the Duke rape case and other sexual assaults on the Duke campus," said Malik Zulu Shabazz, national chairman of the black separatist organization.

The group arrived at 10:05 a.m. in more than 20 cars, pulling simultaneously up to the curb at the Green Zone overflow parking lot on Duke University Road.

Before starting a formal press conference at the entrance to the University, demonstrators conferred in a huddle in the parking lot for about 30 minutes. They were surrounded by NBPP members-wearing black boots, fatigues, bulletproof vests and berets with NBPP logos-who kept bystanders at bay.

Many of the University's top administrators, more than 40 members of the press, Duke employees and numerous law enforcement officials were present. Few students, however, were at the scene because of examinations, Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta said.

As news helicopters hovered overhead, the group crossed the street to the campus gates at approximately 10:35 a.m. repeatedly shouting "What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now."

Shabazz and other NBPP leaders presented their eight demands-which also included calling for "an end to sexual abuse and rape in general"-and described Duke's history as "riddled with slavery and racist oppression."

The group called for the two indicted players, sophomores Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, to be brought to justice and insisted that they would stay in Durham from "gavel to gavel" to ensure that justice was served in the form of a conviction.

The new panther group also passed out flyers promoting a "black community town hall meeting" at St. Joseph's church 6 p.m. Monday.

Shabazz introduced what he termed "allies," including Jackie Wagstaff, Durham School Board member, Victoria Peterson, a member of the Durham Crime Coalition, and an North Carolina Central University student, whom he referred to as "Sister Sasha."

"The number one priority is the survivor," Sasha said. "We have to remember that a rape incident occurred."

At about 11:30 a.m., the group approached a line of administrators and Duke University Police officers gathered at West Campus' stone gate, and demanded to be allowed through on to school grounds.

"We would like to humbly, silently walk through this campus," Shabazz said. "My understanding is that Duke has an open campus."

Robert Dean, director of DUPD, addressed the crowd, explaining that administrators, in light of exam week, would not to allow protesters on campus.

"The president of Duke University is denying the African-American community the opportunity to walk through campus," said Peterson, a Durham resident and North Carolina Central University alumna. "We want to talk to the president... He is no longer welcome at NCCU."

In an e-mail sent April 28 to University community members, Brodhead said members of the NBPP had "informed Duke Police that they have no intention of entering the campus to be disruptive in any way." Moneta said he also understood that the group had been told the same.

Communication between the group and the University was limited to the Duke University Police Department.

After being turned away at the gates, the group marched toward 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. while chanting various slogans such as "Shame on Duke," "No Justice, No Peace" and "Black Power."

When the group arrived, Shabazz spoke on the front lawn of the Buchanan Street house to an assembly of protest participants and onlookers.

"You are the shame of the planet earth today. You are a shame to yourselves and you are a shame to the University," Shabazz said outside the house, addressing the lacrosse players who are accused of raping the exotic dancer. "You want peace for your final exams. You want to take your exams in peace. Yet you have disturbed the peace of our community, and you have violated the peace of the system. Leave the system alone."

The group leader added that the current system is one of white male supremacy, and that women-especially black women-need to be protected.

The organization ended the rally as it had begun-with a communal prayer, this time on the front lawn of the house where the alleged rape took place. Before leaving the site, Shabazz again encouraged participants and onlookers to attend a town-hall meeting 6 p.m. Monday.

The group did not carry weapons and did not act violently at any point during the rally. The policy of the New Black Panther Party, as it was reiterated by Shabazz at the end of the rally on North Buchanan Boulevard, is to use violence only when it is needed to ensure self defense.

"It's an eye opening experience to walk out your door and see the Black Panther Party," said one student who wished to remain anonymous. "I am glad it was peaceful."

Sophomore Chris Bryant cited the group's acknowledgement of a longstanding history of racism at the University and its call for an end to all rape as two of the better points made during the rally.

"One thing I guess I don't really like is the hijacking of different groups. They make use of the situation and are very eager to jump out and make it an issue of race," he said. "The prime issue is that a woman was raped."

Bryant was one of the few students who joined the New Black Panthers' prayer circle at the end of the event.

A block from NCCU, the new Panthers found more support.

St. Joseph's African Methodist Episcopal Church was abuzz Monday evening as the group led a town hall meeting for Durham's black community. Many in the audience cheered the new Panthers' attacks on Zionism, capitalism and white Americans.

From the pulpit, NBPP officials said they had come to Durham to share their revolutionary message and defend the accuser in the Duke rape case. They said the media has unfairly portrayed them as violent hooligans.

"All they will tell you is that we're carrying guns," said Minister Hashim Nzinga, NBPP's national chief of staff.

Another NBPP official, spokesman Yusuf Shabazz, expanded on his party's anti-Semitic black separatist agenda. He added that the party would use violent means to increase the power of blacks and create an independent territory he called "New Africa."

"Anytime a white man grabs a rifle and stands up for his liberty and wife, he's a hero." Yusuf Shabazz said. "We'll kill everybody in a household, we'll kill everybody on our block."

He went on to call whites our "400-year-old oppressor" and "devils," and called for the release of all black prisoners in American jails and the exemption of all blacks from taxation.

The original Black Panthers and the Huey P. Newton Foundation have disavowed the new Panthers, and the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the NBPP a "hate group" along the lines of the Ku Klux Klan.

Moneta said the University has not established a relationship with the party, but will communicate with it during the upcoming weeks if other events are scheduled.

"Our first priority is to create a safe environment for our students, particularly during this week," said Kemel Dawkins, vice president for campus services and security, adding that the University believed in supporting free speech and that Duke University Road is a public street.


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