Members of the Congressional Black Caucus express their concern over the police killing of Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri.
CBC Chair Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11): “What we saw happen in Ferguson last night does not reflect the ideals of this nation. Peaceful protests are the way citizens of this nation have exercised their first amendment rights to freedom of expression, assembly and the right to petition. This is what many of the people in Ferguson, Missouri have chosen to do. But, instead of being respected as citizens of this nation who have the right to vocally oppose what they believe is mistreatment by those meant to serve them, these people, many of whom are young adults, were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and police equipped as though they are militia in a war zone. An elected official was arrested, journalists are being assaulted and innocent, unarmed individuals are having weapons pointed in their faces for merely being outside of their homes. What I saw last night reminded me of violent responses I’ve seen to uprisings in countries around the world, not right here in my own backyard. We are supposed to be better than that. Law enforcement is supposed to protect and to serve, not search, intimidate and destroy. If the St. Louis Police Department’s intent is to deescalate the situation in Ferguson, the way in which they have proceeded is a counterproductive means to that end, and they are doing much more harm than good.”
Rep. John Conyers Jr. (MI-13): “A few facts are clear: A young, unarmed man was shot by a police officer. A small town is under what is essentially martial law. Tear gas and rubber bullets are being used against everyday citizens. Serious and sweeping civil rights violations may have taken place in Ferguson, Missouri. “The tragic killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the events that have transpired since the shooting in Ferguson are reminiscent of the violent altercations that took place during the Civil Rights Movement. Countless African Americans endured unwarranted hostility and excessive force from law enforcement while exercising their right to peaceful assembly and civil resistance. It is a great travesty to find ourselves again witnessing the blatant violation of our right to peaceably assemble in Ferguson. As documented by journalists and people on the ground in Ferguson over the last week, state and local law enforcement have grossly mismanaged any attempts to peaceably resolve the situation. Earlier this week, my colleagues and I issued a letter to the Department of Justice asking them to consider expanding the scope of federal involvement and to investigate the legal and civil rights ramifications of the shooting and surrounding circumstances. Removal of the St. Louis County Police Department from any involvement in the policing of Ferguson is an important step towards restoring peace and allowing for an independent, thorough investigation to take place. The people of Ferguson deserve nothing less.”
Rep. Charles Rangel (NY-13): “Fifty years after we have witnessed the horrors of the Freedom Summer, it is sad and deeply troubling that our country must still grapple with the vestiges of racism. Our hearts goes out to the family and community of Michael Brown who has suffered a great loss. While we cannot bring Mike back or ease the grief of his loved ones, we must do everything to ensure justice for his tragic death. I thank President Obama for making certain that the Department of Justice will conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether there were any violations of civil rights. On this 50th anniversary year of the Civil Rights Act, let us move our nation forward not backward."
Rep. John Lewis (GA-05): “The death of Michael Brown is a grave tragedy the community of Ferguson, Missouri should not have to bear. How many more young men of color will be killed before we realize that we have a problem in America? We are permitting the incarceration and shooting of thousands of black and brown boys in their formative years who might have become great artists, leaders, scientists, or lawyers if we had offered them our support instead of our suspicion. It is a shame and a disgrace that a city with a significant African American population has only three representatives from that community on the police force. What kind of a police department is it that would refer to the people it should be trying to protect as animals? It is unbelievable that these ideas could run rampant in 2014. This is not 1940 or 1950 in America, but today it is hard to see the difference.This is not China or Russia or Syria. This is America, and in this country we have a right to protest in a peaceful, orderly non-violent fashion, and the press should be free to cover these protests without fear. The police should not interfere in the exercise of these constitutional rights. If people are not allowed to express their dissatisfaction through peaceful protest, they will find other means to make their voices heard.This is a good time to consider the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who said that "Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of justice." I am glad the federal government will make an independent investigation of these matters. I urge every agency, every department, every community, every official and every person involved in this conflict to allow the whole truth to emerge so that peace--true peace and real justice will be the result.
"My prayers are with the family of Michael Brown who lost their hope for a better future, with the city of Ferguson which has become the crucible of this conflict, and my prayers are for this nation still struggling with the scars and stains of racial discrimination, wanton violence, and flagrant injustice."
Rep. Bobby Rush (IL-01): “The American system of oppressive conditioning still persist and will continue if we allow it. Although, physical chains no longer exist the police activity across this country is reminiscent of a southern plantation. Young black people are not prey for police departments and their rights must be upheld because they too are deserving of the sworn office duty to serve and protect.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18): "My prayers go out to the family and friends of 18-year-old Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri. As I have stated earlier, this is a death of yet another African-American at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve the community where he lived is heartbreaking. Michael Brown was preparing to begin college, and now his family is preparing to bury their child – his life cut short in a tragic encounter with the police. As a mother, I grieve for this child and his family. I pray that the wonderful, hardworking, and God-loving people of Ferguson will soon find peace and patience as they wait for the results of what will be numerous and thorough investigations of what happened. I, like so many other Americans, will not be satisfied until we have a complete and transparent understanding of all the facts and circumstances that led to this young man’s death. The killing of African American young males is becoming an epidemic in America. We have seen this story before with Trayvon Martin, Alfred Wright and now Michael Brown and these are just some of the names who have fallen victim of excessive policing. All of us are strong supporters of law and order and most of us, such as myself, have strong working relationships with local and federal police agencies. I know good police persons who are professional and follow the law. In the instance of Michael Brown and other cases a failing to follow the law is obvious. Michael Brown was shot down in the street. He was a kid - a boy waiting to go to college. It is important to hear both sides of the story and transparency is imperative. I am calling for the appropriate release of the names of the parties involved and for every police person with knowledge of this incident to be interrogated by the FBI. We will not stop these types of confrontations with the police unless there is a national investigation of police and community relations. The structure in Ferguson, MO should not exist in the 21st century. Law enforcement should be reflected of the community. That is not the case in Ferguson, MO and it was a time bomb waiting to happen. As President Obama has said we must be reflective, we must be transparent, we must respect the law, we must protect the First Amendment of reporters but most of all we must provide that justice that would have allowed Michael Brown to have lived. I believe it is crucial that the House and Senate Judiciary Committees hold hearings in the fall on the continued incidents of the killing of African American males by law enforcement. Added to that should be continued questions on the overall killing of African American young males such as the cases of Trayvon Martin and Alfred Wright. Of course I continue to push for calm and peaceful protest and the peaceful gathering of the people in Ferguson, MO. I will be reviewing the President’s initiative of My Brother’s Keeper to seek an omnibus appropriation to look into why so many African American males are being killed. This must stop now. Mothers and fathers are crying too often.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13): “The death of Michael Brown is a tragedy and I offer my heartfelt condolences to Michael Brown’s family, friends and the entire Ferguson community.The deaths of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown serve as sad examples of the senseless murders of young African American men. As the mother of two black men and the grandmother of two black boys, I know that prejudice is endemic in our institutions, in our society and in our nation.I join my Congressional Black Caucus colleagues in calling for a full and independent Department of Justice investigation to determine the truth and ensure justice for Michael Brown and his family. The Brown family and the Ferguson community have lost a son to senseless violence. The violence and militarization in Ferguson is deeply disturbing. It saddens me to see the images and hear reports of police officers outfitted like soldiers, journalists detained and jailed, and violence in the streets. The violence in Ferguson’s streets needs to stop. I encourage all outraged by this tragedy to embrace Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent dream. We must push forward with the peaceful passion ignited by this tragedy to fight inequality and injustice. All Americans have a constitutional right to peacefully protest. Law enforcement officials have failed to protect and respect that fundamental right.Action must be taken to restore peace and ensure a full and transparent DOJ investigation.”
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05): “The community of Ferguson, Missouri is calling for answers over the death of Michael Brown," stated Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II. "I join the call, and I too am deeply disturbed by all I have seen and heard. I join my colleagues, Chairwoman Fudge, Representative Conyers, and Representative Clay in calling for a full federal investigation. Ferguson deserves better, and the rights of our citizens and of our free press shall not be denied. I await the results of the ongoing investigation over Mr. Brown’s death. I will pray for peace in Ferguson. And I will work for justice.”
Rep. Gwen Moore (WI-04): “Unfortunately, this is an all too familiar story in our country. Yet again, we find ourselves grieving the loss of another young life cut short. The untimely death of Michael Brown and the civil unrest that followed in Ferguson, Missouri, has touched countless lives. As local and federal authorities continue to investigate these tragic events, we must do everything in our power to peacefully channel our anger and frustration in a manner that honors Michael’s memory and strengthens our resolve. I pray that the concern and sympathy of our nation will help the Brown family through this difficult time. I have faith that Michael Brown’s life will have a lasting impact on this world and inspire hope that tomorrow will be a more compassionate and understanding place to call our own.”
Rep. Andre Carson (IN-07): “It is my hope that as the family of Michael Brown comes to terms with their terrible loss, communities across America will honor his memory by ensuring our country’s children of color are protected equally under the law.I know the struggle for peace and justice matters to every American, just as it does to the community of Ferguson. As a former police officer, I also know that law enforcement is supposed to protect and serve, not intimidate and assault. Our nation has a rich history of peaceful protests to advance civil and human rights—these voices are too valuable to be silenced by violence and the use of unnecessary and excessive force.”
Rep. Frederica Wilson (FL-24): “I am tired of burying young black boys. I am tired of watching them suffer at the hands of those who fear them and despise them.I am tired of comforting mothers, fathers, grandparents, sisters and brothers after such unnecessary, heinous crimes of violence.
“Americans should all be mourning, as I am, as we bury yet another young black boy.”
Rep. Joyce Beatty (OH-03): “The tragic death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old young man, and the events that have followed sadden me and do not reflect the ideals of our nation. Scenes from last night’s protests in Ferguson were akin to the brutal reaction by law enforcement during the Civil Rights Movement and those seen in nations that do not adhere to the rule of law. It is clear that demilitarizing and deescalating the situation immediately is necessary so justice for the Brown family may prevail. I urge law enforcement to work with protestors and members of the community to find a peaceful resolution to senseless tragedy.”
Rep. Steven Horsford (NV-04): “In our own country, protestors have been targeted by police firing rubber bullets and tear gas; reporters have been arrested. We all have the right, as American citizens, to non-violent protest. You should not be forced to choke on tear gas to make your voice heard. You should not have to withstand a shower of rubber bullets to assemble. Members of the press should not be harassed or jailed for reporting the news. This situation must not spiral further into a national crisis. This began as a tragedy, and we need to avoid any further escalation. I support President Obama’s call for an open and transparent process to ensure that justice is done. We also need to restore peace to Ferguson, Missouri as soon as possible.”