The former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus stressed that “all you have to do is be stupid” to react with arson and violence to the grand jury’s verdict on Michael Brown’s death.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), former mayor of Kansas City and a Methodist pastor, called the situation in Ferguson “a monumental blunder.”
“Things were done in a the way that does not make sense. I mean, we — we had a buildup to the first night,” Cleaver told MSNBC this morning. “You know, we’re gonna release a statement at 8:00, and so forth. Look, I don’t — I’m not an attorney, but I would imagine that the grand jury completed its work earlier in the day or the day before, and so the press conference to announce what the grand jury’s decision was could have been done at eight — 8:00 a.m. in the morning or at 10 a.m. So it was almost like, we’re gonna build this crescendo and then watch the explosion.”
The congressman visited Ferguson last week. “You could see that while in the middle of all of this chaos, there were business people who were there holding as tightly as possible to hope that things would not be as they were in August,” he said.
“And the one thing that I think, and I hope people would understand and that to — to blow up a building, to fire bomb a building, to detonate a community, there’s no intelligence required, no charisma. All you have to do is be stupid.”
Cleaver said of the people who committed the looting and arson, “Probably 50 people out of that crowd were out doing stupid things.”
“And — and then people are saying, let’s boycott. Look, what we ought to do is get every decent person in the state of Missouri going into Ferguson to buy,” he said. “Because that town had as its principle municipal income revenue from traffic tickets. So we’ve got to, you know, think this thing through. I know a lot of the people saying, ‘Well, let’s just boycott,’ mean well….. but they will further damage small-business people who are the backbone of Ferguson, Missouri.”
He added that we have to draw lessons from the protests.
“If we get nothing out of it as we have done in the past with the situation with Trayvon Martin and others, I think that we ought to be nationally ashamed of ourselves to go through something as chaotic as this without getting something out of it,” Cleaver said.
“First of all, unfortunately, Congress can’t offer too much in the way of help because what are we going to say to the demonstrators? Look at us, and why don’t you conduct yourself like members of Congress when you’re in a tough situation?”
He did predict that “some national legislation” will come out of this, introduced next week with Ferguson Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.).
“And I would think on this pre-Thanksgiving day that it’s not a Republican or a Democratic issue,” Cleaver continued. “We ought to pass national legislation that will create, I think, a positive atmosphere after this thing is over. And that is that police officers, law enforcement officers, must wear cameras and that as we did years ago with the COPS program, we would make federal grants available to small communities that couldn’t afford to have these cameras. And I think it will probably prevent some hoodlums from acting crazy and probably some police officers who might not be psychologically equipped to be police officers.”
“It’s a protective for all,” he added.