Minutes after the announcement was made that the Ferguson grand jury didn’t indict Officer Darren Wilson, President Obama made this statement in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. Early in his statement, President Obama made these conflicting statements:
But I join Michael’s parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully. Let me repeat Michael’s father’s words: “Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone.” Michael Brown’s parents have lost more than anyone. We should be honoring their wishes.
I also appeal to the law enforcement officials in Ferguson and the region to show care and restraint in managing peaceful protests that may occur.
The problem isn’t interactions between Ferguson police officers and peaceful protesters. The problems in Ferguson are caused by rioters vandalizing tire stores and looting grocery stores. Law enforcement did a pretty good job of keeping peaceful protesters away from the rioters. This paragraph didn’t make sense, either:
And there are good people on all sides of this debate, as well as in both Republican and Democratic parties, that are interested not only in lifting up best practices — because we know that there are communities who have been able to deal with this in an effective way — but also who are interested in working with this administration and local and state officials to start tackling much-needed criminal justice reform.
That’s foolish. The Ferguson grand jury reached the same conclusion that grand juries in Norman, OK, Austin, TX, or Sacramento, CA would’ve reached. This grand jury said, after reviewing tons of forensic evidence and thoughtfully listening to testimony, including Darren Wilson’s testimony, that a police officer has the right to use lethal force if he fears his life is in danger.
No criminal justice reform will ever change that.
The biggest thing missing from President Obama’s speech was criticism for Al Sharpton. That’s dispiriting because Sharpton deserves the criticism for fanning the flames of racial tension.
On the other hand, those who are only interested in focusing on the violence and just want the problem to go away need to recognize that we do have work to do here, and we shouldn’t try to paper it over. Whenever we do that, the anger may momentarily subside, but over time, it builds up and America isn’t everything that it could be.
Mr. President, ignoring Al Sharpton’s incendiary rhetoric doesn’t help. If he isn’t rebuked publicly, he won’t stop fanning the flames of racial mistrust. That’s totally unacceptable. If President Obama publicly criticized Sharpton, which isn’t likely, Sharpton’s credibility as a civil rights leader would be hurt. That would be positive step forward for America.