'New Black Panthers' offer reward for George Zimmerman. Who are they?

Members of a group called the New Black Panther Party are offering a $10,000 reward for the “capture and citizens arrest” of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch coordinator who shot Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26.

New Black Panther members announced the reward during a weekend protest near the gated neighborhood where the incident took place.

“We cannot sit back as men and allow Zimmerman to remain free and on the loose because he is a danger to himself and others ... We must use our constitutional rights and Florida law to organize a citizens arrest in order to see that justice is done,” said group spokesman Chawn Kweli, according to a press statement on the group’s website.

RECOMMENDED: Gun Nation: Inside America's gun-carry culture

What is the New Black Panther Party? Is it an offshoot of the 1960s-era group of similar name? Why is it inserting itself into the already-heated debate over the Martin killing?

In short, the New Black Panther Party is a hate group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, and other organizations that track fringe ideological movements.

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

The NBPP is a black separatist group which believes African-Americans should have their own nation, according to the Law Center. It has demanded that all black prisoners in the US be released to their care, and that the US, Europe, and “Jews” pay it reparations for slavery.

NBPP leaders have blamed Jews for both slavery and the Sept. 11 attacks. During an April 2002 demonstration in front of the B’nai B’rith building in Washington, NBPP members chanted “death to Israel” and “Jihad,” and as well as “Kill every [expletive] Zionist in Israel!” according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Under its current leader, Washington-based attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz, the NBPP has received national media attention for taking on racially charged issues under the pretense of championing civil rights, according to the ADL.

“The group’s demonstrations, conferences, and other events often blend inflammatory bigotry with calls for violence, tarnishing its efforts to promote black pride and consciousness,” says the ADL.

For example, Mr. Shabazz has said “I hate white people. All of them. Every last iota of a cracker, I hate it,” according to the Law Center.

Founded in Dallas in 1989 by radio personality Aaron Michaels, the group portrays itself as the inheritor of the original Black Panthers. NBPP members often wear black berets and quasi-military uniforms while appearing in public. Founding Black Panther members from the 1960s reject any association with the group, however, saying it is a small band of wannabes who have hijacked the old organization’s image while promoting policies counter to the revolutionary principles on which the Panthers were founded.

“The Black Panthers were never a group of angry young militants full of furty toward the ‘white establishment.’ The Party operated on love for black people, not hatred of white people,” says a statement on the website on the foundation of Huey P. Newton, a Black Panther founder.

In 2008 the US Department of Justice filed suit against the group on charges of voter intimidation. The suit alleged that two NBPP members in military garb entered a Philadelphia polling station on Nov. 4, 2008, and made threatening remarks to voters, while one brandished a night stick.

The Justice Department won the case by default, since the defendants never appeared in court, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. But officials eventually dropped most charges, saying there was little evidence voters had actually been prevented from casting ballots by the pair, or that NBPP leaders were involved in the incident.

RECOMMENDED: Gun Nation: Inside America's gun-carry culture

Get daily or weekly updates from CSMonitor.com delivered to your inbox. Sign up today.