Attorney General Eric Holder visited Ferguson, Mo., today regarding events around the August 9th shooting death of Mike Brown, 18.
Brown was shot by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. Since the day of the shooting there have been long nights of protest and clashes with police in the city. Holder met with community leaders today and will meet with elected officials this afternoon. An autopsy on Brown, conducted by federal authorities, is said to have occurred today.
At a community meeting at St. Louis Community College, America’s first Black Attorney General relayed that he too has experienced racial profiling.
“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,” Holder said.
Holder’s comments highlight an interesting and sometimes unspoken aspect of how the actions of police are viewed in the U.S.. In America, it is often the case that black and white citizens are having two completely different experiences with law enforcement. In New York, where the policy of “stop and frisk” was strongly supported by former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, over 6850,000 New Yorkers were stopped by police in 2011 alone.
Over 88% of those stopped were innocent. Over 85% of those stopped were black and Hispanic men.
The Attorney General went on.
“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.”
The shooting of Eric Garner comes only after a month after Eric Garner, 43, was killed by a New York City Police Officer. The Garner incident was recording on video. This afternoon Attorney General will meet with elected officials including Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO.)
“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 and the history simmers beneath the surface in more communities than just Ferguson,” the Attorney General also said today. “So let’s start here. Let’s do the work today,” he added.