Speaking at the Atlanta church of Martin Luther King, Jr., Attorney General Eric Holder said last night that “it’s apparent that our nation’s journey is not yet over” from the tribulations of the civil rights movement.
“And so we return once more to this hallowed place to seek shelter from a terrible storm – a storm that I’m certain we will weather, so long as we continue to stand united – and unafraid to address realities too long ignored,” Holder told the crowd at the Ebenezer Baptist Church.
He wouldn’t give details on the progress of the federal investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson as well as practices of the Ferguson Police Department, only to say that the probes are “ongoing and active.”
“I understand that the need for this trust was made clear in the wake of the intense public reaction to last week’s grand jury announcement. But the problems we must confront are not only found in Ferguson. The issues raised in Missouri are not unique to that state or that small city. We are dealing with concerns that are truly national in scope and that threaten the entire nation,” Holder said.
“…Our overall system of justice must be strengthened and made more fair. In this way, we can ensure faith in the justice system. Without that deserved faith, without that reasoned belief, there can be no justice. This is not an unreasonable desire – it is a fundamental American right enshrined in our founding documents.”
Holder said the loss of Brown or any young life is “heart-rending, regardless of the circumstances.”
“And it is deeply unfortunate that this vital conversation was interrupted, and this young man’s memory dishonored, by destruction and looting on the part of a relatively small criminal element,” the attorney general continued.
“Dr. King would be the first to remind us that acts of mindless destruction are not only contrary to the rule of law and the aims of public safety; they threaten to stifle important debate, ‘adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.’ They actively impede social progress by drowning out the legitimate voices of those attempting to make themselves heard.”
Holder renewed MLK’s call “for all those who seek to lend their voices to important causes and discussions, and who seek to elevate these vital conversations, to do so in ways that respect the gravity of their subject matter.”
“I urge all Americans to stand in solidarity with those brave citizens, in Ferguson, who stopped looters from destroying even more local businesses, who isolated people responsible for acts of violence, and who rejected lawless and destructive tactics – just as I have urged them to stand with law enforcement personnel to ensure the rights of protestors and defuse tense situations whenever and wherever possible.”
Holder listed President Obama’s initiatives announced yesterday, including the formation of a Task Force on 21st Century Policing to “ask tough questions, examine thorny challenges, and consider the state of the law enforcement profession in a broad and inclusive way.”
He said that in the coming days the Justice Department will announce “guidance regarding profiling by federal law enforcement, which will institute rigorous new standards – and robust safeguards – to help end racial profiling, once and for all.”
“It was Dr. King who reminded us – in his very last speech, on the night before his life was taken – that it’s only when it is dark enough that the stars can be seen. Tonight, once again, it is dark enough. Yet even in recent weeks, there have arisen great sparks of humanity, and hope, that illuminate the way forward,” he said.
“Out of this darkness shine the actions of those who reject destruction in favor of peaceful protest; the bravery of others who faced down mobs; the valor of law enforcement officers who risked their lives to restore public safety to their communities; and the humble words of a father who lost a son, but raised his voice in pursuit of peace.”