Since the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, images and stories of clashes between citizens and law enforcement, Molotov cocktails and tear gas have dominated the news cycles. For people of a certain age, they recall life in the sixties, when civil rights activists soldiered on for the cause despite potential and actual police brutality.
For others, they bring to mind the kind of chaos occurring in the Middle East, scenes Americans have recently witnessed on their television screens but thought, no way could such violence ever occur here.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri) is reminded of both.
"Ferguson resembles Fallujah more than it does the Ferguson that we had right off I-70 during the 1960s and '70s. Right now we have a community that has been essentially left behind in terms of racial progress," the congressman said in an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Tuesday. "And all you have to do is look at the demographics and then look at positions that people hold in the community. I think you’d have to understand that to understand the anger that the world is now seeing all day and all evening with the people of Ferguson."
Cleaver fears that until "the hoodlums who have kind of pushed themselves into this situation" are out of the equation, it may be impossible for the Justice Department and the FBI to conduct thorough investigations.
Neither he nor Rep. Lacy Clay, whose congressional district includes Ferguson, have any faith in local law enforcement to investigate Brown's shooting properly or fairly. During radio interviews with CREDO'S Ferguson Justice LIVE on Monday night, Cleaver called the Ferguson police department "inept."
Clay agreed and went further, saying, "We know we won't get a fair shake" from either the police or the county prosecutor. "That's why they did what they did today," he said, citing information leaked that Brown had marijuana in his system on the night he died.
"He was already assassinated, so now you’re going to assassinate his character?" Clay asked angrily. "[W]hat they did today was to negatively influence a jury pool in St. Louis County."
For Clay, the longtime history of strife between the Missouri town's majority white police force and majority African-American residents isn't just political; it's personal.
"I’m raising a 13-year-old son in this community, and he nor anyone else should have to live under a double standard with the law. We have to change the policing in this community. Now that’s what has to happen, and that’s what I’m working toward," he said.
Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.
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(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)