Black lawmakers are disappointed and frustrated by the recent shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and President Obama is no exception. During a Thursday night appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, he expressed hope that the incident won't derail the efforts of those who've been protesting peacefully for more than 200 days.
"Whoever fired those shots shouldn't detract from the issue. They're criminals. They need to be arrested," Obama said. "And then what we need to do is make sure that like-minded people, good-spirited people on both sides, law enforcement who have a terrifically tough job and people who understand they don't want to be stopped and harassed because of their race, that we're able to work together to try to come up with some good answers."
The shooting occurred early Thursday as protesters began to disperse after peacefully demonstrating in front of Ferguson's police headquarters in response to the resignation of police chief Thomas Jackson. One officer was hit in the face and the second in the shoulder. Their injuries were serious but non-life threatening and they were released from the hospital Thursday afternoon.
So far, no arrests have been made, but according to a report from KSDK-TV, the police searched a house in Ferguson and took three people away in handcuffs for questioning. A car was also towed away from the home.
“I completely condemn the cowardly ambush of the brave officers who were wounded last night in Ferguson,” Clay, whose district includes the beleaguered city, said in a statement. “I ask everyone to join me in prayers for their swift recovery and for healing in our community. The path of violence does not lead to justice.”
Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement Thursday morning, condemning the shootings, which he described as heinous, inexcusable and repugnant. Later that day, at an event to announce the first six cities to host pilot sites for the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, his assessment was even harsher.
"What happened last night was a pure ambush," Holder said. "This was not someone trying to bring healing to Ferguson. This was a damn punk, a punk who was trying to sow discord."
Obama, as well as other Black lawmakers and civil rights leaders, have praised the efforts of protesters in Ferguson and across the nation for following the example set by activists in the '60s, who used nonviolent protest to force change (which resulted in landmark legislation like the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964).
"What was beautiful about Selma," Obama told Kimmel, "was reminding ourselves that real social change in this country so often happened because ordinary people are willing, in a nonviolent fashion, to make their voices heard."
Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.
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