Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 24, 2014

Democrats Call for Judiciary Hearings on Ferguson Violence

453583696 445x296 Democrats Call for Judiciary Hearings on Ferguson Violence

A police officer standing watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown conceals her identity. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Three senior Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are calling on panel chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., to hold hearings on the violence that has erupted in Ferguson, Mo., following the police shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager on Aug. 9.

“For the past five days, the citizens of Ferguson have protested the killing of of an unarmed teenager by local police,” wrote ranking member John Conyers Jr., Mich., and two subcommittee chairmen, Robert C. Scott of Virginia and Steve Cohen of Tennessee, in their letter on Thursday afternoon. “Last night, law enforcement broke up the protest with brutal force: confronting demonstrators in riot gear and armored vehicles, arresting journalists, and firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd.

“These incidents raise concerns that local law enforcement is out of control and, instead of protecting the safety and civil liberties of the residents of Ferguson, is employing tactics that violate the rights of citizens … this situation requires immediate congressional scrutiny,” they continued.

Conyers, Scott and Cohen want Goodlatte to allow the committee to take a full look at the circumstances that have transpired in the aftermath of the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, and how those circumstances play into larger, troubling patterns in communities across the United States.

One such pattern, they said, was the “use of deadly force by police against unarmed African Americans in cities around the nation.”

“We appreciate that many of the facts surrounding the tragic … shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer are still coming to light,” the lawmakers acknowledged, “but the incident has exposed long-simmering racial tensions between an overwhelmingly white police force and a majority African-American population.”

The other issue to explore, said the trio of Democrats, was the “series of troubling arrests in Ferguson of local political figures and embedded journalists, caught up in the chaos of protests in the small, St. Louis suburbs over the past several days.”

“Finally,” Conyers, Scott and Cohen wrote, “the Committee must address the extensive militarization of state and local police … In Ferguson, why do local police dress in military-style uniforms and body armor, carry short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles based on the M4 carbine, and patrol neighborhoods in massive armored vehicles?”

Questions about the militarization of local police are being posed by other lawmakers, too.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., wrote in an opinion piece for Time.com that overly militarized local police have become a problem, despite the best intentions of most officers.

In an appearance on MSNBC, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., called for President Barack Obama to federalize the Missouri National Guard to take control of the streets of Ferguson away from local authorities to protect protesters. Lewis, who was almost killed by law enforcement during what was supposed to be a peaceful civil rights march in the 1960s, is no stranger to police brutality.

And next month, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, plans to introduce a piece of legislation he has been working on for some time, but which has new resonance in light of the events in Ferguson. It would end a Defense Department program that transfers free surplus military equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies.

Goodlatte’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A GOP Judiciary Committee aide told CQ Roll Call in an email that “Chairman Goodlatte supports the ongoing efforts to conduct a thorough investigation of the events surrounding the death of Michael Brown.”

The aide added, “the Committee will be monitoring the results of the investigation,” referring to the ongoing probe by the Justice Department, FBI and local law enforcement.

Niels Lesniewski, Emily Ethridge and Connor O’Brien contributed to this report.

Related:

New Focus on Civil Rights, Militarized Cops Emerges in Wake of Ferguson

As Ferguson Police-Protester Clashes Escalate, Congress Wades In

Obama Calls for Calm, Healing

CBC Members Call for Full DOJ Investigation

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

 

  • jack

    What the hell does having military gear have to do with this issue? Just feed the frenzy. Like Fox does.
    IF yo go up against guys with guns you are an idiot. You will loose every time.

  • Meredith Quill

    In this related video we find an example of the types of propaganda used by those openly waging ideological warfare against the United States Constitution: http://youtu.be/BO94AdhCg0k

  • John Green

    Your analysis is naive, and shows no understanding of the Democrat Party History. Democrat racist policies are no longer in effect since they’ve lost long held power. In my state, North Carolina, the Democrats held the NC State Senate from 1898 to 2012. Worse still, you seem to have a no understanding of the history of the region and the parties.
    The Missouri Kansas rivalry (that exists to this day) started before the Civil War as feud between Democrat slave state Missouri and Republican Free State Kansas.
    As you’ll recall, the Democrat Party in both the North and South supported slavery. They were opposed nationwide by the Republicans led by Abraham Lincoln. After the Civil War, the Democrats with their militant arm, the KKK, seized control through a series of riots including the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898, and the New Orleans Race Riot. In these Riots, they seized political control by coup, driving out elected black Republicans.
    NC Republican Governor Holden cracked down on the KKK, and was impeached by the Democrats for the crackdown. The Democrats seized power in the NC Senate in 1898 and kept it continuously until 2012. Once in power, the Democrats passed the Jim Crow laws to suppress Black Republican Vote. (The Voting Rights Act was passed to stop repression of black Republican vote.)
    The Democrats passed Eugenics policies in 33 states that included the forced sterilization of Black ‘welfare Queens”. Eugenics policies continued in the South until 1978. Democrats opposed Eisenhower’s Civil Rights Legislation. Democrats opposed school integration and Republican Eisenhower sent in Federal Troops to end the Democrats policy of school segregation. The 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed over the opposition of Southern Democrats. The Smithfield to Selma Civil Rights Marchers were beat by Democrat police officers in Democrat controlled towns.
    The Democrats twice elected KKK leader Robert Byrd as the top Democrat in the US Senate (Senate Majority Leader). He served until his death just a few years ago. These Democrats never switched parties. It’s not just their elected Democrat leaders that remained lifelong Democrats (like Al Gore Sr, who also opposed the Civil Rights Act). Less than 1% of Democrat voters switched parties.
    The Democrats became the Welfare party under Lyndon Johnson, and unlike Republican Martin Luther King Jr., many Black inner City leaders sold out, like Uncle Toms, to their former oppressors.

    Your article seems to have no understanding of the historical background of the racist Democrat Party. Please read US history and use that to inform your future articles.

  • Captain Hadley

    Just another day in black America: http://bit.ly/YdA3R7

  • John Green

    You must be kidding! Why would Black protestors in Missouri register as Democrats? The Democrats are the party of slavery! The Missouri – Kansas Rivalry was fought over the issue of slavery with Democrats supporting slavery and Republicans opposed. Republicans in the North and South opposed slavery. Democrats in the North and South supported slavery. When the first Republican, Lincoln, became President, the Democrat controlled South seceded over the issue of slavery.

    Black Republicans came to power in the South after the Civil War. But the Democrats and their militant arm, the KKK overthrew them. Black Republicans ran what was the largest city in NC at the time, Wilmington. Democrats with the help of their militant arm, the KKK, overthrew the Black Republicans in a race riot. They followed up with a race riot in New Orleans against Black Republican elected officials. NC Republican Governor Holden was impeached by the Democrats for cracking down on the KKK.

    The Democrats took control of the NC Senate in 1898 and kept it continuously until 2012. Once in power, these KKK Democrats passed the Jim Crow laws in order to suppress Black Republican voters.

    The Democrats passed Eugenics policies in 33 states including the forced sterilization of black Welfare mothers. This continued until 1978.

    Democrats supported school segregation. It took Republican Eisenhower to send in Federal troops to integrate the schools over the objection of Democrat Governors. Democrats supported segregation in restaurants and buses. The Civil Rights demonstrations of the 1960′s were against Southern Democrat run cities and policies.

    Most of the opposition to the Civil Rights Act came from Democrats including Al Gore Senior and Robert Byrd. KKK leader Robert Byrd was elected the top Democrat in the US Senate.

    There’s a myth that the Democrats switched parties, but less than 1% did. Most Democrats were like Al Gore Sr, and Robert Byrd, they were lifelong Democrats.

    Martin Luther King Jr. believed in racial equality, that’s why he was a Republican. He would never sellout to his oppressors, like Uncle Tom. Why would anyone sell-out to their oppressors?

Sign In

Forgot password?

Or

Subscribe

Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...