Congressman on Difference Between Ferguson Protesters, Criminals: 'You Can't Shoot and Think at the Same Time'
The former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus said the violence that erupted night before last at the Ferguson protests isn't indicative of the demonstrators in the Missouri city.
Tyrone Harris, 18, was wounded in a shootout with police that was captured live by TV crews covering the protests. He was out on bond at the time and now faces 10 felony counts.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) told CNN that people watching the latest Ferguson events unfold must "understand that anybody who came to the demonstrations with a gun is a criminal."
Cleaver said the shooting of Harris is probably not "going to end up having a lot of questions, but there would be even fewer questions had we seen the officers and their cars equipped with cameras."
"This is an instance where it would probably protect the police, because it appears as if the police were responding justifiably," he said.
"But the young people who are out there, they have a -- they deserve a right to be out there and protest. But you can't shoot and think at the same time."
The congressman said he thinks President Obama is "absolutely" doing enough to address race relations.
"In fact, my concern is that, as you know, as the media knows, each time President Obama delves into these issues, there are those who start out saying he is a Black Panther, he is for violence and so forth," Cleaver said. "And, look, the issue of race relations is something that all of us can do and must do. The president, I think, can set a broad outline for what we need to be doing as a nation. And I think he's doing that. But the work really comes from us, with our neighbors and with our colleagues. And that's exactly what should happen."
"But let me just say, there's a lot to be done in Ferguson, a lot to be done in this entire country on the issue of race. And maybe we have gotten to a point now where people will quit denying that we still have a race problem in the country."
Cleaver said Ferguson a year ago "a year ago was in 1955, and so now I think it's in about 1965."
"There are still problems there, but those problems cannot be addressed with guns. And I can't overemphasize the fact that those who are carrying guns and coming to a protest are coming for the purpose of disruption," he said. "And they would like to see things as they have been. And I think we need to shun them and the police need to arrest them."
This past spring, Cleaver and Ferguson congressman Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) offered a reward for a shooter who hit two police officers in the city.