Editor’s Note: The following are remarks the Attorney General made in his official visit to Ferguson Missouri. His comments are enclosed so that African-American News&Issues readers will get the gist of how this African-American leader is handling the situation without news media filters and opinions.
Remarks to Students at Florissant Community College
Ferguson- “The eyes of the nation and the world are watching Ferguson right now. The world is watching because the issues raised by the shooting of Michael Brown predate this incident. This is something that has a history to it and the history simmers beneath the surface in more communities than just Ferguson.
We have seen a great deal of progress over the years. But we also see problems and these problems stem from mistrust and mutual suspicion.
“I just had the opportunity to sit down with some wonderful young people and to hear them talk about the mistrust they have at a young age. These are young people and already they are concerned about potential interactions they might have with the police.
“I understand that mistrust. I am the Attorney General of the United States. But I am also a black man. I can remember being stopped on the New Jersey turnpike on two occasions and accused of speeding. Pulled over…“Let me search your car”…Go through the trunk of my car, look under the seats and all this kind of stuff. I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me.
“I think about my time in Georgetown – a nice neighborhood of Washington – and I am running to a picture movie at about 8 o’clock at night. I am running with my cousin. Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells “Where you going? Hold it!” I say “Woah, I’m going to a movie.” Now my cousin started mouthing off. I’m like, “This is not where we want to go. Keep quiet.” I’m angry and upset. We negotiate the whole thing and we walk to our movie. At the time that he stopped me, I was a federal prosecutor. I wasn’t a kid. I was a federal prosecutor. I worked at the United States Department of Justice. So I’ve confronted this myself.”
“We are starting here a good dialogue. But the reality is the dialogue is not enough. We need concrete action to change things in this country. That’s what I have been trying to do. That’s what the President has been trying to do. We have a very active Civil Rights Division. I am proud of what these men and women have done. As they write about the legacy of the Obama administration, a lot of it is going to be about what the Civil Rights Division has done.
“So this interaction must occur. This dialogue is important. But it can’t simply be that we have a conversation that begins based on what happens on August 9, and ends sometime in December, and nothing happens. As I was just telling these young people, change is possible. The same kid who got stopped on the New Jersey freeway is now the Attorney General of the United States. This country is capable of change. But change doesn’t happen by itself.
Remarks at the St. Louis FBI Field Office
St. Louis – We have brought to this area very experienced prosecutors, we have very experienced agents who are handling this matter, and doing so, I think, in a fine way. I’m going to get briefed on more of the details about the investigation.
I’ve been kept up to date, but there’s nothing that can replace actually coming to the office that’s handling the matter, and being able to look in the face the people who are, I think at this point, very ably handling this investigation. Now, our investigation is different from that which the state is doing.
We are looking for violations of federal, criminal civil rights statutes, which is different from what the local investigation is.
We have brought a substantial number of people here, of agents here, who have done a great job in the canvassing that they did over the past weekend, and continue to follow leads so that we can do a thorough and a fair job of making a determination about what happened on August the ninth. And I’m confident that through the ability of these people, we will be able to make a determination about whether or not any federal statutes have in fact been violated.
My hope also is that through the trip that I’m making out here today and by expressing the importance of the way in which this investigation is going, that hopefully will have a calming influence on the area, if people know that a federal, thorough investigation is being done–is being manned by these very capable people.
My hope is that that will have—give people some degree of confidence that the appropriate things are being done by their federal government.
Again, we are doing something different, okay, than that which the state is doing–than what the county prosecutors are doing. But nevertheless, I think that what we are doing, hopefully, will have a positive impact.