August 23, 2014
Guest: Osagyefo Sekou, Carl Kenney, Todd Johnson, Allison Kilkenny, Juan
Cartagena, Purvi Shah, Jamal Simmons, William Barber, Aphaluck Batiasevi,
Alexander van Tulleken, Molyric Welch, John Gaskin, Michael Eric Dyson,
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question, can high
school football heal a community? Plus, the Attorney General comes to
town. And, when just showing up is the most important thing you can do.
But first, all eyes remain on Ferguson.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. It`s now two weeks since 18-year-
old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a 28-year-old police officer,
Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri. Wilson is currently on paid
administrative leave. It`s been two weeks since the Ferguson community was
thrust onto the national scene. For two weeks residents there have been
seeking answers and demanding justice while trying to make sense both of
the killing of an unarmed teenager and the militant police response to
their protests. And yet two weeks into this story with so many questions
still unanswered, there are signs that relative normalcy is slowly
returning to Ferguson.
As last night marked the third straight night with peaceful demonstrations
that resulted in zero arrests. A touch of normalcy is also returning in
the form of high school football with four local team games being played
this weekend, one today with Normandy High School where the school will
retire number 14 commemorating the year Michael Brown graduated. Students
will go back to school on Monday. But even as routines return, the family
of Michael Brown and the Ferguson community will continue to have to wait
for answers, likely at least as long as mid-October. That is the estimate
from when prosecutors will finish presenting evidence in Michael Brown`s
case and for the grand jury to consider criminal charges against Officer
Darren Wilson. And so it is clear, even while some things like school and
football, and quieter streets are returning, as the parents of Michael
Brown prepare to bury their child on Monday, it will be quite some time
before normal can return to Ferguson and, of course, the protests of recent
weeks force us to question if normal is even desirable, if everything now
simply returns to normal, will the nascent movement in Missouri have
Joining me now from Ferguson is Reverend Osagyefo Sekou who is a pastor for
formation and justice at the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plains,
Massachusetts. And Reverend Carl Kenney, a columnist at Columbia Faith and
Values and adjunct professor at the University of Missouri. So, nice to
have you both.
REV. OSAGYEFO SEKOU, FELLOWSHIP FOR RECONCILIATION: Thank you. It`s a
blessing to be here.
KARL KENNY: Good morning, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Reverend Sekou, I want to start with you, because you`ve
been on the ground and you`ve been working with young people as well as
communities there. At this moment after three nights without tear gas,
three nights without the kind of militant response of police, what are the
current sort of feelings, emotions there in the communities?
SECOU: I mean, young people are in a deep amount of pain here. The very
idea of returning to normalcy has to be interrogating, given the fact that
normalcy itself is unjust, that between 2000 and 2012 unemployment among
Fergusonians has doubled. That the one in four Fergusonians live in
poverty, and so when we look at these numbers to return to the current
situation would be to return to an unjust situation very much like New
Orleans. Like returning to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to the same
situations, return it to an unjust construction in status quo. Young
people are our leaders. We are in a situation where social movement has
emerged led by black youth, of which are - many of them complain, simply
playing catch-up to - in their commitment of radical civil disobedience and
noncompliance. Given that the police have de-escalated their more militant
tactics does not mean that there`s not heavy police presence. There`s
still armored tanks on the street. They`re just parked on parking lots.
But they are still here and people are still suffering.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Reverend Secou, I so appreciate that. That`s precisely
what I`m trying to get at here is this idea that normal is the thing that
we are going for. So, in part, Reverend Kenney, that`s why I wanted to
talk with you. You grew up in Missouri. You spent three decades in North
Carolina. Returned to Missouri relatively recently. And as you look at
the circumstances in Ferguson, is normal as peaceful, even, the thing we
should be striving for or is there kind of - kind of simmering unrest that
we ought to want to continue not for purposes of harming the community but
rather for changing it?
REV. CARL KENNEY, COLUMNIST, COLUMBIA FAITH & VALUES: Well, we have to
admit that it took decades to systematically deconstruct this community and
changing, shifting the tide back to something that appears to be normal is
going to take a little more time. There`s been an abandonment of this
community. There`s been the white flag, the black community has even
abandoned the black middle class community has abandoned this community.
There`s a level of fragmentation that exists that is unparalleled and is
going to take more than a few protests, a few tears, and a funeral to put
the rest of the pain that in this community.
HARRIS-PERRY: Reverend Sekou, obviously, there`s been a lot of
conversation about the role of media, the role of organizers who are not
necessarily indigenous to the community but who have come with a great deal
of experience. But are the people of Ferguson beginning to feel like as we
return to a normal sense of policing that, in fact, the attention will go
away? In other words I`m wondering, are they worried about an abandonment
that may be right on the horizon?
SEKOU: Well, one of the beautiful things about what we`ve witnessed here
is the emergence of young black leadership who are from here. There`s a
young rapper Tadpole (ph) and others who are engaging in deep forms of
organizing. Young people are leading these wards who are from here. And
so, that is very important. We`ve needed the national attention. We`ve
needed the reality of journalists being arrested for people to continue to
pay attention to what`s happening here. And so of course people are
frustrated. They are in pain. They are concerned. There are many people
like myself who went to high school in St. Louis who have come back and who
are not going to abandon this community, but we are in for the long haul.
And then I also want in terms of the kind of peace conversation that people
are having, what we want to be clear about there will be no peace here
until there is an indictment and an arrest of Darren Wilson, until there`s
the demilitarization of the policing forces of this community, until
there`s firm economic investment in which the numbers of unemployed have
decreased. And so what we are facing with and what the task of clergy are
is to stand with these young people who are engaging in civil disobedience
and noncompliance. That is our moral and ethical responsibility not to
lead them, not to preach down to them, but to stand with them, to stand by
with them and to bear witness with them.
HARRIS-PERRY: Reverend Kenney, I want to draw on one other possible
remembrance here. Reverend Sekou brought up the point of Hurricane Katrina
and the abandonment and the experience of post Katrina. And I was saying
earlier that the Ferguson situation more than anything I`ve ever covered
puts me in mind of that moment. But there`s another moment that you and I
shared living in Durham, North Carolina, when there was an accusation of
rape against the Duke Lacrosse team. As that accusation began to fall
apart, so, too, did any conversations about larger structural issues around
race and gender and injustice. And I guess part of what I`m wondering here
is whether or not the longer term conversation, the bigger structural
issues can sustain no matter what happens in the individual case of Officer
Wilson and the killing of Michael Brown.
KENNEY: I think you`re correct to raise that question. As we learned from
Durham, North Carolina, there were some core issues that had to be
addressed related to the case in the Duke Lacrosse rape case. And I`m
afraid that once the cameras leave, once the protesters leave, once the
people who come from the outside go back home, that this particular issue
is going to be lost in the midst of a community that is continuing to
grapple with what it means to exist. As I stated it took years of
systematic destruction to bring this community to this particular place and
it`s going to take some very aggressive work on the part of both the black
and white community to bring it back together again.
When you have a community that has leadership that is predominantly white
and manages a community, when you have city council that is predominantly
white and a mayor who states publicly that there is no racial problem in
this community, then you have a problem that will not go away once the
protesters -- it bothers me, Melissa, that when you raise the question of
Ferguson to those in the state, white people within the state, that they
want to question the looters. They want to talk about the rioters. But
they don`t want to address the fact that a boy, an 18-year-old boy, and I
mean boy in the sense of his youth, is dead. And that there`s a system
that helped create that type of misery and so it`s going to take more than
this and my challenge to clergy, my challenge to leadership, my challenge
to those who come here to spend time with the protesters, once this is
over, let us not forget that something happened here that could happen
again. One more point, Melissa, there`s another tragedy within this
community. Kajieme Powell who was killed senselessly by police, who is a
young man who struggled with mental illness .
HARRIS-PERRY: Reverend Kenney .
KENNEY: Obviously the case --
HARRIS-PERRY: And Reverend Kenney, I promise you that is going to be a
continuing part of our coverage here on this show. We`re going to talk
about that case as we go. But you are exactly right - let me just on a
very quick personal note say to Reverend Osagyefo Sekou who I attended
seminary with and to Reverend Carl Kenney, who was my minister during the
years that I lived in Durham, North Carolina, that I have a great deal of
personal satisfaction and pride in seeing both of you standing there
continuing to do the work that I have known you to do for years and years,
and I am so happy that you are in Ferguson, Missouri, giving me some hope
about what will happen next. Thank you so much for joining me this
morning. This morning right here in New York City, preparations are under
way for a march led by the Reverend Al Sharpton and the family of Eric
Garner, the Staten Island man who died following his interaction with
police back in July. The news on that and much more out of Ferguson when
we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D) NEW YORK CITY: We want this to be a transcendent
moment for this city. We`ve experienced a tragedy with the death of Eric
Garner, but this is not about a single incident or being mired in the past.
This is about a very purposeful and consistent effort forward.
HARRIS-PERRY: While the country focuses on the shooting death of Michael
Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, by a police officer, we cannot forget 43-year
old Eric Garner who died in police custody on July 17 in Staten Island, New
York, from an apparent chokehold. According to the New York City medical
examiner Garner`s death was caused primarily by compression of the neck and
chest and his positioning on the ground while being restrained by police.
In less than two hours Reverend Al Sharpton, host of "Politics Nation" here
at MSNBC and President of the National Action Network will lead a march
called "We Will Not Go Back" with the family of Eric Garner. The march is
set to end at the Staten Island district attorney`s office where a rally
demanding justice for Garner will begin at 1:00 p.m. Joining me with more
on today`s march is Todd Johnson, a multimedia correspondent, for the
Grio.com. Todd, what can we expect and who can we expect to see at today`s
TODD JOHNSON, GRIO.COM: Good morning, Melissa. You can expect a whole lot
of activity and a whole lot of demonstrators here to remember Eric Garner`s
life and also ask for action, asking for change and a new kind of training
and tactics from the New York police department. There`s not a lot going
on right now. It`s relatively calm. There are buses of demonstrators that
have already arrived from Brooklyn in neighboring boroughs. There`s
obviously been a lot of changes that have had to happen to make this rally
possible this morning. A number of businesses in the area here on Staten
Island have closed kind of in anticipation of everyone that`s going to be
gathered here today and trying to avoid any problems or potential
disruptions that may occur to their businesses. So, that`s certainly in
play. There`s been a lot of service changes from the MTA in getting people
over here. So that`s also something to consider. People are going to
gather around the place where Eric Garner lost his life to about half a
mile from here. They`re going to remember him and kind of kick things off
before they, as you say, march to the district attorney`s office and then
gather nearby where I am right now right outside of the 120TH precinct of
the police department here.
And as far as speakers, as you mentioned, the family of Michael Brown out
in Ferguson will be here joining with the family of Eric Garner. They may
or may not speak. Certainly Reverend Sharpton will address the crowd. And
I`m also told that there will be retired New York police officers who did
not see eye to eye with how this entire thing was handled and certainly how
Eric Garner lost his life last month. So that`s something that viewers can
expect. Kind of hearing from former police officers who themselves do not
agree with how everything was handled.
HARRIS-PERRY: The Grio`s Todd Johnson in Staten Island, New York. I know
there are some conflicting reports about whether or not Michael Brown`s
family will actually be able to be there. But clearly, as you point out
there`s a kind of solidarity and connection between these two families and
the men that they have lost. I appreciate your reporting this morning.
After the break we go back to Ferguson where the unrest may be calming
down, but the push for change is just beginning. We`ll take a closer look
at how to turn a moment into a movement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We wouldn`t have outsiders coming from our - it will
be a little bit better. These people here are trying to get along, they
are just trying to get through.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have anarchists here which we do not welcome in
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The protesters have now been invaded and embedded
among them are a group of instigators, some coming from other states that
want a confrontation with the police. They are seeking a confrontation
with the police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw a different crowd that came out tonight. But we
didn`t have as many as the agitators and as I said criminals in the crowd.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Instigators, anarchists, and agitators. These were some of
the names given to the people in Ferguson protesting the killing of 18-
year-old unarmed Michael Brown who was shot at least six times by a police
officer. This language of an outside instigating force in the Ferguson was
reiterated by Governor Jay Nixon who on Thursday ordered the state National
Guard to begin withdrawing from Ferguson after ordering them to the city on
Monday to provide, quote, "protection." For a statement released by his
office Nixon reversed course because since that time the situation has
greatly improved with fewer incidents of outside instigators interfering
with peaceful protesters and fewer acts of violence. With all of this talk
of outside agitators, I thought it might be worth remembering these words
written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from a Birmingham jail cell. "We are
caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of
destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never
again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial outside agitator
idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an
outsider anywhere within its bounds."
At the table Purvi Shah, the Bertha Justice Institute director of the
center for constitutional rights, who was recently on the ground in
Ferguson. Jamal Simmons, a Democratic consultant at the Raben Group,
Allison Kilkenny, co-host at Citizen Radio, and Juan Cartagena who is
president and general counsel at Latino Justice. Purvi, from your
perspective on the ground, were the behaviors of police primarily a
response to an outside agitator group interested in provoking those
PURVI SHAH, BERTHA JUSTICE INSTITUTE DIR., CCR: No. I think that the
frame of outside agitators is a convenient way to ignore the demands of 99
percent of the protestors. I was out in Ferguson earlier this weekend, at
the beginning of this week, and I was in a march of hundreds of people most
of whom were family members, community members of Ferguson. I was marching
alongside teachers and preachers and students, and I actually passed a
family of that - of 20 people all wearing orange shirts. Then I struck a
conversation up with them and I asked, you know, you`re all wearing the
same shirts. What are you doing here? They said, well, we`re in St. Louis
for a family reunion and we thought we should come out here and march for
justice. And I got out my phone and I started to tweet "Justice is a
family affair." And as I started to tweet that, we were all tear-gassed.
And so .
HARRIS-PERRY: So, before you can get 140 characters out .
SHAH: Before I could get 140 characters out. And this is the thing that I
think we need to understand about the frame of outside agitators. It is a
very intentional term that`s utilized to fracture our movements and to say
that our fates are not intertwined, you know, I think that what we`re
seeing in Ferguson is not just an issue that relates to the families in
Ferguson. I think it is an issue for every single family in America.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Allison, just from a pure strategic point of view, I
mean, when Martin Luther King Jr. goes to Birmingham, he is trying to
provoke the police, right? That`s part of why they picked Birmingham
because they know Eugene "Bull" Connor is going to respond in some of the
ways, for example, that Governor Nixon responded. But not because they
desire some sort of negative interaction with the police, but because they
are trying to reveal what the injustice is. Right? And I just - I kept
trying to say that notion of provocation, you are missing the strategy of a
ALLISON KILKENNY, CO-HOST, CITIZEN RADIO: Yeah, I mean that`s what
activism is, right?
KILKENNY: Showing to a community .
HARRIS-PERRY: You provoke the state to behave that way.
KILKENNY: Yeah, to me if we`re talking about, you know, outside agitators,
I immediately think of the mainstream media who goes into a community like
Ferguson and tapes almost exclusively footage of looting. That is framing
a narrative in a very specific way. To me people who go to sort of express
solidarity that is very different than the media coming in and sort of
shaping the narrative in an unflattering way.
HARRIS-PERRY: To express solidarity and also, Juan, and I think this - to
bring organizing resources, right?
JUAN CARTAGENA, LATINO JUSTICE: No question.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, the part of what happens is that communities like
Durham, North Carolina, or like New Orleans, might have experiences that
they come to the ground to bring. That doesn`t make them agitators. It
makes them organizers.
CARTAGENA: Organizers. And people solidarity. And we don`t need
permission. We don`t need permission to go to Ferguson, don`t need
permission today to go to Staten Island. We are here. We are in
solidarity. We are bearing witness to a movement led, and particularly in
Ferguson, by young people who are saying enough. This is exactly what we
need to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: I haven`t heard anybody say it quite like that. I want to
pause it for a second before we move on. The idea that we don`t need
permission because that`s precisely what happened when Governor Nixon
declares on Saturday afternoon that there`s going to be that curfew, is
that drawing the line in the sand, in which you suddenly have to have
permission to be outside.
KILKENNY: Talk about provoking.
CARTAGENA: Exactly. Exactly!
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes! I mean that was the provocation, right?
CARTAGENA: Exactly, no question.
HARRIS-PERRY: In fact, Jamal, I kept thinking who in the world is advising
Governor Nixon in this moment? Because part of I think what has been
stunning for me, is that so many of the people involved in this response
are elected Democrats. Many of them elected with vast majorities of the
very communities they are policing. And so it does feel to me like it sets
up a set of political problems for us because the solution cannot simply
be, oh, go get the other party in office, right? This, for most of these
young people, for these families, these are the folks they voted in
thinking that they did have shared interests.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT, THE RABEN GROUP: Absolutely. I mean
what you learn is when you go around the country not every Democrat really
understands what`s going on inside of all the communities. I think this is
one of the challenges, particularly for Democrats. It is to understand
that we have this rising majority that`s taking place, which is not the
same as it used to be. You`re not running to capture these mythical Reagan
Democrat suburban voters, there actually is a big mass of people who
represent all kinds and colors of stripes. What really appeals to me when
I watch this and listen to this, is all the leaders kept coming out asking
for peace, right? Well, they didn`t really want peace. What they wanted
SIMMONS: And quiet is really very different than peace. Because peace
requires a reckoning. And they weren`t really willing to do what it took
to get a reckoning. I mean it happens when you have a tinderbox that means
that kindling was there before the match. And so, who is going to deal
with kind of pulling some of that stuff apart and figuring out what was
going on in these communities before the match of Mike Brown got lit? And
we did - and we still haven`t really seen the political leadership really
engaged in the community in the way that it needs to. And every day that I
watch Governor Nixon get up there wearing a suit and tie looking like the
man, right? He was looking like the outside, you know, governing force of
the state. And not - he never had his sleeves rolled up. He never wore a
windbreaker. He never looked like he was really engaged in any fundamental
way. He never showed up in the community where the people were marching.
SIMMONS: I kept thinking, they are just making some really fundamental
mistakes about objects and how they communicate before we even get to the
substance of dealing with this police officer.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with us. As we go out, though, I know sometimes I
make claims about history and you may or may not believe me, but I really,
I want to play again the Birmingham Police Commissioner Eugene "Bull"
Connor. And I just want you to hear how closely his language aligns with
the language that we have heard this week out of Ferguson about outside
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EUGENE "BULL" CONNOR, FMR. COMMISIONER PUBLIC SAFETY, BIRMINGHAM: And
Birmingham police assisted by law enforcement agencies from the county and
surrounding areas and backed up by the Alabama Highway Patrol has a
situation here under control and are working around the clock to maintain
law and order. If there`s anybody in this nation who understands what is
going on here, it is me. I know that we have sufficient manpower, enough
trained officers to keep the peace in Birmingham without any outside help
from the federal government. If the president is really sincere about
wanting peace in Birmingham, why doesn`t he use his great influence and ask
Martin Luther King and his bunch of agitators to leave our city?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Some local organizations in Ferguson are working to
translate outrage into ongoing political engagement by encouraging voter
registration. "USA Today`s" Amar Madani tweeted this picture of a voter
registration table set up outside the Quick Trip. "Your vote is your
voice," it says. The (INAUDIBLE) of constitutional rights Jessica Lee
tweeted this photo from a voter registration table in front of a memorial
where Michael Brown was killed. The local NAACP has set a goal of
registering about 2,000 voters by October with the focus on Ferguson
residents whose voter turnout rates for local elections has been less than
13 percent for the past three years. These efforts to boost civic
electoral participation were denounced by the executive director of the
Missouri Republican Party Matt Wills. Wills, in an interview with
Breitbart News called the voter registration efforts not only disgusting,
but completely inappropriate. Stating if that`s not fanning the political
flames, I don`t know what is. Joining me now from Detroit is Reverend Dr.
William Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP. Rev. Barber, nice
to have you this morning.
REV. WILLIAM BARBER, PRES., NORTH CAROLINA NAACP: How are you doing this
HARRIS-PERRY: Reverend Barber, Ferguson has led a lot of commentators to
kind of reflect on these prior social movements of past decades. We`ve
been doing that ourselves on this show. But I`m wondering what do you see
as the necessary ingredient for building and sustaining a contemporary
social movement in this moment?
BARBER: Well, first, we all mourn and grieve with the Brown family in
Ferguson and you`re exactly right the long-term movement is what`s
necessary. I think there are four things we have to do. First, we have to
communicate clearly what the issue and what the narrative is. Police that
protect and serve, we celebrate them. But we must clearly say, is that a
gun and a badge is too much power for a bigot, for a hater, and for
somebody who believes that they need to be trigger-happy. What we have to
do is communicate this now. We`re talking about an 18-year-old boy being
killed, an unarmed black man being killed as your litany said earlier this
week. And my president attorney Brooks has clearly said we must address
the subculture of prejudice and the violence heeding behind the badge.
That`s the first thing, we have got to communicate particularly what the
issue is and not let people take it in another direction. And then
secondly we must coordinate the anger and the grief. What I mean by that,
if you look at past movements, Melissa, we need to have unified, long term
mass meetings regardless of whether the media is there or not to sustain
the movement and inform the people and develop indigenous leadership. We
have got to support the federal -- go ahead.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to - there because I want to dig in on that a little
bit. You know, I recently had the opportunity to speak with Diane Nash,
who was part of that critical sort of capacity building movement as part of
the civil rights movement and, you know, what she kept saying is a
demonstration is a tactic, but it is not a strategy that you need .
HARRIS-PERRY: The sort of broader strategies. And, in fact, so many of
the strategic people of previous movements are folks we never saw on
camera, Ella Baker and Bob Moses, people whose names we may not even have
remembered into 30, 40, 50 years later. So how do you do that? How do you
do the work when there are no cameras of building that strategy, not just
BARBER: Well, you know, that`s what we`ve done in North Carolina, the
Moral Movement. We`ve been at this over seven years and 70 weeks. Just
since last April. Even when cameras weren`t there. And that`s why I say
uniformed mass meetings, not just marchers. You have to have the marchers
and those marchers, I believe, many of them, should come in in the daytime.
They should be diverse. We should be focusing on different communities
like mothers and men and children. But in addition to that we need to be
holding hearings where people can articulate the litany of pain. In
addition to that we have to reframe the issue of violence - and violence is
locking people in the ghetto, denying economic opportunity and all of those
things. And then further, Melissa, I think you drive this point home, we
have to have what I would call calling the community to build political
power and not along with street protests. So we`ve got to surely register
people to vote. No elected official in this country, especially Missouri
now, should ever run again without having to deal with this issue, the
D.A., the police chief should not be hired, governors, whoever they are,
and then we need folks who came out of the street to go back in the street
and say to the brothers and sisters in the street, if you`re really angry,
we don`t need you in the street. We need you to be the movement in the
street from the bottom up. And then lastly we have to have the diversity
of voices, black and white and Latino, it can`t just be a black issue. It
has got to be a diverse and religious forces who say this is a moral issue
we have to deal with.
HARRIS-PERRY: Reverend William Barber of the Moral Monday`s movement of
North Carolina, the NAACP of North Carolina, but today in Detroit,
Michigan. Thank you for joining us.
BARBER: Thank you so much.
HARRIS-PERRY: And when we come back, we will talk more about this question
of building movement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will say it again. St. Louis County needs to clean
its house. Voters in north St. Louis County and St. Louis County in
general, they need to get these people out, get the petitions going to
recall this mayor. Let`s get rid of this chief. Have him fired. Let`s
get rid of (INAUDIBLE) today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People ask what can be done. As a local resident my
representation needs to reflect me. Now, that`s on me to vote and that`s
also on the system being encouraging that participation. As a local
citizen if I don`t have people that can - that I see I can empathize or
have a similar experience it`s very, very hard to relate and that`s not
just, you know, how much melanin is in your skin, but also your experience
and your background.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was a Missouri resident on Wednesday discussing the
importance of having the local government that he feels represents him.
Still with me at the table Purvi Shah, Jamal Simmons, Allison Kilkenny and
Juan Cartagena. So, Juan, I want to go to you. You know, on the one hand
we have this young man saying I need a government that represents me but
then I want to play for you this moment with my colleague Tamron Hall on
MSNBC on Tuesday asking the current mayor of Ferguson whether or not there
is a race issue in his city.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR JAMES KNOWLES, FERGUSON: There`s not a racial divide in the city of
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: According to who?
KNOWLES: As we progressively become more .
HALL: Is that your perspective or do you believe that that is the
perspective of African-Americans in your community?
KNOWLES: That is the perspective of all residents in our city, absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Those .
CARTAGENA: Yes. It`s so inconcluent (ph). I mean come on. The young man
was saying I want a government that represents me. He said, it doesn`t
make a difference how much melanin is in my skin - skin color of the people
who represent me. I want people who have the experience that I have,
experience, I want to be able to relate - relate, that`s what government is
supposed to be about. The fact that people are trying to register voters
in Ferguson and that we have the reaction at discussing the most civic
minded event is indicative of a government that`s not responsive. It`s
indicative of a need to get rid of those leaders, organize, vote, petition
and get rid of them. If a mayor of this town has no idea that the
kindling, that you mentioned, Jamal, was there, then he`s completely
disconnected from the reality and therefore needs to change and get out.
KILKENNY: What we`ve sort of done at this point is label disgusting every
level of resistance. So, whether we have people who are -- and whatever
you think of looting, it`s a form of expressing anger, maybe
disillusionment. We have that. And if we are also calling disgusting
registering people to vote, then it`s sort of like, well, then where are
people supposed to find an outlet to, you know, organize or express their
grief or their trauma?
HARRIS-PERRY: Maybe they`re meant to simply submit?
HARRIS-PERRY: And, you know, because I just -I kept thinking, you know, I
hear looting -- I get it. I get it. But the way it kept making me feel to
hear conversations about property rights in the context of tear gas, Purvi,
we were talking about this before, that like the notion that in order to
protect this property I will compromise your health and your safety felt
like a tradeoff that could only be made if you don`t believe the health and
safety of those people is at all relevant.
SHAH: Absolutely. And I think there`s even more than that I think we have
a broken political system. I think what you`re seeing in the young people
of Ferguson is that they don`t trust -- they don`t trust the police. They
also don`t trust the mayor. And so I think voting on the 50th anniversary
of the Voting Rights Act is absolutely a critical strategy. But I don`t
think just voting is going to get us there. I think we have to look at the
institutional bias. Institutional racism in our police system, in our
policing practices, the over incarceration of black and brown youth. I
think if we want to, we have to have a multi-prime strategy, in which
voting is just one of the strategies, grassroots organizing is a
fundamental strategy. And when I was down in Ferguson I absolutely saw
organizers building the leadership of young people in Ferguson and doing
political education. So it`s not just marches and protests, but it`s
actually sitting down and having discussions about civic process. What
does it mean to be civically engaged? Protests is one way, voting is
HARRIS-PERRY: And I just - you know, we saw there some of the images, some
of the protesters carrying the American flag, that iconic image of the one
young man throwing back at teargas - a canister while wearing an American
flag, again, very much a reminder to me of what happened post-Katrina when
people were waving the American flag to ask for rescue, reminding people we
are citizens and as citizens we have a right to speak. And not just to
submit. Our panel will be back in the next hour as there is much more from
Ferguson still to come this morning. But first, even with a recovery here
at home, the Ebola outbreak is getting much worse and we need to pause and
talk a bit about that next.
HARRIS-PERRY: There was a remarkable moment Wednesday in Atlanta, Georgia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENT BRANTLY: I am forever thankful to God for sparing my life, and I`m
glad for any attention my sickness has attracted to the plight of West
Africa in the midst of this epidemic. Please continue to pray for Liberia
and the people of West Africa and encourage those in positions of
leadership and influence to do everything possible to bring this Ebola
outbreak to an end. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Ebola patient Dr. Kent Brantly from Emory
University Hospital in his first public appearance since returning to the
U.S. for treatment. Earlier this week, there was reason to cheer genuinely
good news when it was announced that both American Ebola patients have made
successful recoveries and are now being released and reunited with their
Unfortunately, that good news was tempered by reports of the situation in
West Africa, where now more than 1,400 people have died from the disease,
is growing increasingly dire. Last Saturday a clinic in the West Point
community of the Liberian capital of Monrovia was raided by angry residents
who stole contaminated materials and caused patients to flee. That was
followed by a decision by Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to
impose a nationwide curfew, and quarantined the neighborhood of West Point.
Violence broke out between locals and the military forces tasked with
enforcing that quarantine and "The New York Times" reports Liberian
citizens were fired upon with live rounds wounding several and killing one
15-year-old boy. Health officials have begun to express fears the
Liberia`s entire health system could collapse under the weight of this
crisis. Joining me now from the phone - on the phone from Liberia is
Aphaluck Batiasevi from the World Health Organization. Nice to have you
APHALUCK BATIASEVI, SPOKESPERSON WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Good morning.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, how dire is the situation in Liberia at this time?
BATIASEVI: We are looking at a big outbreak in the capital city. We are
not dealing with a small outbreak. And we are currently working at our
best to prioritize what actions need to be taken immediately and a quality
(INAUDIBLE) to stop the outbreak as soon as possible to normalize the
country. And we are trying to work on this at the very intense time. We
have been supporting the government and we`ve been working seriously with
international partners and bringing resources in, we brought in, protective
equipment, with (INAUDIBLE) need extra from different network institutions,
but we still need more. Currently the priority is to stop the outbreak as
soon as possible to empower the community, to engage people in the
community to try and control the outbreak, to provide all the necessary
care for patients as much as possible and we are all working together on
this. So, it`s often - and the action you have on this it is going to take
some time. Things will not change in a day.
HARRIS-PERRY: Aphaluck Batiasevi from the World Health Organization on the
phone from Monrovia, Liberia, thank you so much for joining us. And
joining me at the table here in New York, Dr. Alexander van Tulleken who is
senior fellow at the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs at
Fordham University. He has worked for the World Health Organization in
humanitarian crises around the world. So, Doctor, those images from
Liberia are chilling and we have just spent nearly an hour talking about
curfews and restriction here in the U.S. in Ferguson. Is this the one
moment -- is infectious disease a moment when suspension of the kind of
normal aspects of human rights that would allow free movement is
DR. ALEXANDER VAN TULLEKEN, SR. FELLOW, IHA FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: I think
you`ve got a really difficult situation here because on the one hand, yes,
you do need to restrict individual freedoms in a crisis like this. But the
reaction of the residents of West Point is so strong that what`s very clear
is they`re not onboard with the project of limiting the spread of Ebola.
They`re not educated about Ebola and they`re not informed about it. And as
long as they`re not, then it`s not going to work. Controlling Ebola is
about altering individuals` behavior, it`s about hand washing, it`s about
contact with Ebola, it`s about reporting cases. And if you are unable to
get people onboard with that it`s not going to work. So, what I hope that,
I`m not saying Ellen Sirleaf Johnson is wrong in doing what she`s doing,
but it isn`t working. And it isn`t the right thing to be doing. It`s
turned out. So, they have to be altering their approach and the most
important thing is informing their population, giving them educated on
HARRIS-PERRY: And obviously, part of the reason you`ve had this response
is because Liberia is just coming out of decades of - just of horror and of
civil war and of crisis so the notion of just trusting that government to
sort of barricade you in, I mean, you understand the reasonable distrust.
But I guess my question then is given the speed with which this infectious
disease moves versus the deliberation it would take to build trust and
information, are we looking at a crisis that can`t be stopped or what will
be the kind of barrier that can stop it?
VAN TULLEKEN: No, I think - I mean this is definitely a containable
disease. It`s not that contagious. It`s spread by contact with bodily
fluids and we`re still not looking at a huge number of cases compared to
something like a cholera epidemic or a flu epidemic, for instance. So it
is containable. And we`ve only just started really pouring in the
necessary resources. The guy who is running it for the WHO at the moment,
a system coordinator, David Nabarro, is an absolute expert, and he is a
really, really good guy to try to get this under control. I think the WHO,
the WHO have not reacted fast enough, but the World Health Organization and
other U.N. agencies are really only as good as their member states. We`ve
cut U.N. funding in half this year -- sorry, I beg your pardon, we cut WHO
crisis funding in half this year, and that`s part of the problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let`s come back to the U.S. for just a moment. I mean I
imagine that for some observers, especially for Americans who tend to have
a pharmaceutical view of how you address the disease, the fact that we have
two people who were infected receiving a serum and getting better makes you
feel like, so make more of the serum.
VAN TULLEKEN: This is not - it`s really interesting. You started by
talking about Ferguson and talking about Ebola and human rights. This is a
crisis, which really represents poverty and neglect across a region of the
world. Globalization has not lifted West Africa out of poverty. And the
idea that a particular molecule or a particular drug or a particular
vaccine is going to solve this problem for us is to completely miss the
lessons from this Ebola epidemic. The first lesson is, we haven`t spent
enough on disease prevention and control and we haven`t reacted quickly
enough. But the other part of the more important lesson is this is a
region of the world we just haven`t cared about for a long time. We`ve
actively neglected it. We don`t invest there. We don`t spend money there.
And so, the idea of the health system collapsing in Liberia, which is a
very real danger, is entirely predictable. We would have known this is
going to happen.
HARRIS-PERRY: Very briefly, how important was it the number of hugs that
Dr. Kent Brantly received at the end of that press conference? You know, I
keep saying, contagious disease. And you`re like, it`s not that
contagious, Melissa. And is that part of what`s going on here?
VAN TULLEKEN: I think this is - I was watching to see if they do it, and
they did it and it was so wonderful. Obviously they have affection for
their patient, but more than that they symbolically decontaminate him.
It`s visible. If you think of your friends with HIV and maybe ten years
ago how important it was to hug them and touch them in public, even though
no one really believed it was going to be transmitted by a handshake, there
was still a squeamishness about it. That`s going to be the same with Ebola
survivors. They need to see that in West Africa as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you so much for joining us. Dr. van Tulleken. Coming
up, the impact of Eric Holder`s visit to Ferguson, why the attorney general
was there and President Obama was not. "Nerdland" at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Attorney General
Eric Holder went to Ferguson, Missouri, this weak to check in on the
Justice Department investigation into Michael Brown`s death and to reassure
the people of Ferguson that the highest levels of government are paying
attention. He made his only public remarks while visiting with FBI agents
in St. Louis where he explained the reason for his trip west.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: That people know that a federal,
thorough investigation is being done, 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
HARRIS-PERRY: Attorney General Holder spent the day meeting with members
of Congress and the governor with local and county and state officials
including highway patrol captain Ron Johnson as well as local residents
including the family of Michael Brown. He also spoke to students at a
local community college where the majority of students are African-American
and he told them he understood their mistrust of the police. He said,
quote, "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
for the trunk of my car, look under the seats and all kinds of stuff. I
remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had
on me. He talked about a night in Georgetown when he was running to catch
a movie with a friend and was stopped by police who were suspicious of
black men running through a tony neighborhood. At the time he was already
a federal prosecutor with the Justice Department. Attorney General Holder
reflected on his trip in a press conference Thursday in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: The national outcry we have seen speaks to a sense of mistrust and
mutual suspicion that can take hold in the relationship between law
enforcement and certain communities. I want the people of Ferguson to know
that I personally understood that mistrust. I wanted them to know that
while so much else may be uncertain this attorney general and this
Department of Justice stands with the people of Ferguson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The attorney general did not do anything dramatic while in
Ferguson. Did not make any big announcements or really any news at all.
What he did was show up.
Joining me live from Ferguson is John Gaskin, a member of the executive
committee of the St. Louis chapter of the NAACP. Also in Ferguson is
Molyric Welch who met with the attorney general on Wednesday. So nice to
see you both.
MOLYRIC WELCH, MET WITH ERIC HOLDER ON WEDNESDAY: Hey.
JOHN GASKIN, NAACP NATL BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Thank you.
WELCH: Hugh are you doing?
HARRIS-PERRY: Molyric, I want to start with you because you had a very
particular personal story that you shared with the attorney general. Can
you share it with us?
WELCH: Yeah. I lost my brother in 2011, Ferguson police department. It
was an unfortunate event. He was tased to death. We`re basically pursuing
it right now. My family has an attorney and we`re just hoping to find
justice for Mike Brown and for Jason Barr (ph).
HARRIS-PERRY: So when you talk about having lost your brother to a tasing
event with the Ferguson police as long ago as 2011, obviously the question
of trying to get justice for you, for your family, feels quite delayed.
Did meeting with the attorney general change your feeling about the
likelihood that you can get justice?
WELCH: It was definitely reassuring. I mean it was almost like fate, you
know, for me to be there and for him to come all the way to St. Louis to
help us. I was definitely - I felt reassured when he left. He made us all
feel comfortable when he talked to us and he wanted to know how we felt.
It was amazing.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mr. Gaskin, I want to come to you as well because you`re
there in an official role as a part of the NAACP. What did it mean to you
for Attorney General Holder to show up in Ferguson?
GASKIN: Well, you just mentioned, he showed up. A lot of people here
protesting have just asked for somebody to show up and speak for them,
someone in leadership to show that they care, that they care about the
injustices that are being taken place in our country and like she
mentioned, I was in a meeting with the attorney general with various
community leaders. And when he shared his personal testimony regarding how
he`s been profiled and what it`s like to have a black son, and what you
tell them, I almost got emotional. But he encouraged us to take action and
to take it a step further. That`s why the NAACP is having a youth-led
march. We expect the hundreds of youth from across the area and across the
nation to be here today at 1:00 to march against racial profiling and the
brutality that has gone too far with police departments across the country
here today in Ferguson.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, it`s interesting you say that. I want to take a
listen. This is Attorney General Eric Holder saying how it made him feel
to meet with you, both of you, and with other young people there in
Ferguson. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: Mike, to a person yesterday, the people I met, was take great
pride in their town. And despite the mistrust that exists, they reject the
violence that we`ve seen over the past couple of weeks. In that sense,
while I went to Ferguson to provide reassurance, in fact, they gave me
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, there`s the attorney general saying that it is you all
who gave him hope about something being able to be different. What do you
see as the key things you need from the Justice Department in order to keep
this moving forward?
GASKIN: Well, we need people to be transparent.
GASKIN: We need people it to stay on the job. When the media leaves after
the funeral, we need people to know that justice still has to be done. We
received information, as you have, from the prosecuting attorney`s office
saying it could be mid-October by the time the grand jury decides that they
want to take this thing to trial. And so, there`s much work to do, but we
need the Justice Department to continue to work here on the ground, to
continue to do their own investigation and make sure that it`s thorough,
it`s transparent, that is done as expeditiously as possible, but that it`s
HARRIS-PERRY: John Gaskin in Ferguson, Missouri, thank you for your
continued organizational efforts and Molyric Welch in Ferguson, Missouri.
I am hoping for justice for you and for your family. Thank you for joining
us this morning.
GASKIN: Thank you.
WELCH: Thank you so much.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to bring in my panel, Purvi Shah, the Bertha Justice
Institute director of the center for constitutional rights, who`s recently
on the ground in Ferguson, Jamal Simmons, a Democratic consultant at the
Raben group, Allison Kilkenny, co-host at Citizen Radio and Juan Cartagena,
president and general counsel at Latino Justice. "I am the attorney
general, but I am also a black man."
HARRIS-PERRY: That is both obvious and yet stunningly powerful in that
SIMMONS: Absolutely and we think about the history of the Justice
Department from Jay Edgar Hoover going forward and having this African-
American man able to stand there, go there and make this case. It`s so
powerful, I think, for people to be able to see that and what it means for
the resources he puts behind it and I know, you know, we`ll be talking
about this a little bit later, but the president appointed Eric Holder and
he kept him there. Now, I will tell you as a consultant I hear a lot from
conservative Democrats and from some Republicans who I have to work with on
different projects and they do not like Eric Holder.
SIMMONS: And people have recommended that the president get rid of Eric
Holder as a way to kind of rebound his poll numbers. But the president
stuck by him. So, I think we have got to like, own some of that, that`s a
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so and this goes off maybe, I mean it`s interesting you
pointed out like - not everybody loves Eric Holder and that the people who
do love Eric Holder, it`s sort of surprising. I was at the 50th
anniversary of the March on Washington and the man got one of the most
rousing standing ovations. And I`m like I`m sorry, are black people
applauding the attorney general?
HARRIS-PERRY: Like, you know, the - like the highest, you know, law
enforcement officer in the country. But, Juan, I want to go back to 2009.
I want to listen to the attorney general almost immediately after President
Obama is elected and inaugurated and remind ourselves what he said at that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic
melting pot in things racial we have always been and we, I believe,
continue to be in too many ways essentially a nation of cowards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So that nation of cowards, February 18, the president hasn`t
even been in office a month. They start calling for his resignation and
his firing then. And yet as much as that was this kind of powerful moment,
the attorney general at that time talked a lot about how we talk to each
other and talk to each other. He goes to Ferguson, he`s like OK, we`re
going to do some stuff.
CARTAGENA: I mean they need to do something, obviously. But the question
of his being there is so critically important. I would have taken it a
step further if I was him. It`s not just the kindling that occurred that
he has the obligation to investigate. But also the response, the
militarization response that I didn`t hear enough about. I`m not hearing
anything from the president.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Some of those tanks came from where he works.
CARTAGENA: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m not saying he sent them but some of them came from DOJ
CARTAGENA: The transfer of all those supplies and arms in the way to fight
"terrorism being used against citizens of the United States."
KILKENNY: Yeah. And I keep thinking about stuff like drug sentencing
disparities, you know, and the fact that police militarization, the war on
drugs, these are all by-products of the same thing which is institutional
racism. And while optics totally matter and it matters that Captain
Johnson is there, it shouldn`t distract from the fact that that`s just a
band aid. It`s not going to fix the sickness.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is interesting, this question of whether or not
that visit is primarily optical, primarily to see the attorney general
mention his own blackness and his own experience or whether it is something
else. He said to the Florissant Valley Community College, which we don`t
have sound of because it wasn`t public, but he said and read later, he
says, 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. Basically
suggesting that, in fact, the legacy of the president and of his
administration rests in many ways with Eric Holder, with the civil rights
division and I think he would make -- I`m not sure but this suggests that
he would make a claim that they have attempted to address the structural
issues that Allison is bringing up.
SIMMONS: But keep in mind the Republicans have not confirmed a deputy - I
mean assistant attorney general for civil rights.
SIMMONS: Which you know well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right, and of course we know part of why. I mean
maybe we want to remind the audience of the story of Debo.
CARTAGENA: Debo Adegbile. I mean come on, an incredible civil rights
attorney, with a wonderful, incredible trajectory of civil rights
enforcement done under by the fact that he actually helped to represent a
man on death row.
HARRIS-PERRY: Which was had his job.
CARTAGENA: Which was his job.
KILKENNY: And if we think about how many representatives are prosecutors
or former persecutors what does that say about our system where we are
just, you know, focused on punishing and incarcerating and not
rehabilitating or defending our citizens.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And this is not a small point that - and I`m glad
you brought it big for us. Because that reminder that this is not mutual,
this is a bit like that voter registration is disgusting, right? Doing
one`s job as an attorney is a reason not to be appointed to the civil
rights division. Up next, Michael Eric Dyson on the importance of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you think Holder`s visit today, speaking with community
leaders, meeting Michael Brown`s parents, had a calming effect on the
RON JOHNSON: I believe it did. I believe it let this community that -
know that their voices have been heard by the greatest - the top law
officer in the land. So it lets them - they know that their voice has been
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama will personally chair a special meeting of
the United Nations Security Council. Will it only be the second time ever
that a U.S. president has chaired such a meeting? The only other time it
was also President Obama back in 2009 when he oversaw a meeting of nuclear
nonproliferation. It was clear then that the president believed his
personal presence not that of his U.N. ambassador or his secretary of
state, although they were there, too, but his presence at that meeting was
key. So key that he was willing to be the first. It paid off. The
council passed the president`s resolution unanimously. And he`s doing it
again. This time in a meeting about what is perhaps the United States`
most pressing global security interest, counterterrorism. By choosing to
be there, by chairing the U.N. Security Council meeting himself, a move
none of his predecessors ever made, but this president will make twice.
President Obama is making clear his understanding and the importance of
being present. It is for many a stark contrast to President Obama`s
absence from the scene in Ferguson, Missouri.
Joining me now from Miami is MSNBC political analyst and Georgetown
University Professor Michael Eric Dyson. Nice to see you this morning,
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Good to see you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Twitter`s mad right now, FYI. In part probably because
in your piece for "The Washington Post" you characterized the president`s
comments about Ferguson as tone deaf, disappointing, overly cautious to a
fault, and I`m wondering why.
DYSON: Well, you know, bless Twitter, the twit-wits notwithstanding. The
reality is that as you have been - I have been extremely supportive of this
president, unapologetically loved him, unashamingly embraced him, but the
thing among friends is you can say, hey, you know what, I disagree with you
and I think that it is detrimental to the issues at hand for the president
Of the United States of America not to be there. First of all, his words
being too cautious. There`s one thing to strike balance, which is
necessary. He doesn`t want to, as he said, put his thumbs on the scale, to
tip them in any way before the investigation is clear. I get that
completely. But we`re not talking about you putting your thumbs on the
scale for the Michael Brown case.
We`re talking about you providing a balance for the history and the legacy
of African-American and Latino and other peoples being subjected to
criminal brutality by the police, a repressive police state has executed
black men in broad daylight. That is an American problem. That is a
presidential problem that calls for presidential bully pulpits to be in
order. Secondly, I think his presence would have meant something, like
Eric Holder. Eric Holder didn`t go out and say, look, guess what, we`re
going to lock this guy up and throw away the key. He didn`t say that,
because he can`t promise that. He promised a fair investigation. The
president similarly can go down there and say to the people, I am behind
you. The resources of your government are behind you and I, as president,
understand as a president and black man, attorney general and black man. I
can`t pretend that I don`t have the experiences that make me uniquely
qualified to express empathy with, though, the demand for justice alongside
So for me it`s a balance between those two competing interests and the
president has to make a difference. He went to Sandy Hook. He went to
Newtown, the same thing. He went to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. He
went to Colorado. He`s been to many places. Come to Ferguson to show that
you are concerned about that population because they are, after all,
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you, is Eric Holder going as a member of the
Obama administration himself invoking the Obama administration? Is it
sufficient? And I`m also wondering - because so, I`m trying to think like
a Secret Service person here. Maybe they are thinking, OK, we don`t send
the president in this moment because physically the chaos that it would
cause. But I wonder because one of the things you pointed out in the piece
that was, I think, a lovely contrast is the ways, in which the president
was present after the Zimmerman verdict. He represented .
HARRIS-PERRY: A set of personal experiences discursively, even though he
didn`t go and stand in Florida. He didn`t go to Sanford, but somehow he
felt as though he were standing with people. Is it about physically being
there or is it about a discursive presence and then Eric Holder being his
feet on the ground?
DYSON: Yeah, but, as usual, you`re so brilliant. You know what, had we
had one, the other might not have looked so bad. Had we had a discursive
intellectual anthological it is bone deep feeling that the president is
with us. Had he stood up, look at what happened after the grisly, brutal,
terroristic execution of Mr. Foley. President Obama was calm, but you can
tell he was upset. And this is wrong and this can`t happen. Now we`re
looking at black men in the streets of our American city being executed.
That is not right. We want to see that same kind of - we want to feel that
same kind of passion. Calm but still upset with the fact that this is
occurring. Now Eric Holder is great. Let me tell you what. Eric Holder,
one of the what, five most powerful black figures ever. Obama, Holder,
Clyburn, William Gray -- these figures have been extraordinarily important
in politics, but you know I`m a Christian preacher and God finally said,
look, I can`t send nobody else. I have to go myself. And I`m not saying
that Obama is Jesus, but to many of his followers he is, but I`m saying
show up, dog .
DYSON: . and show us that you are seriously committed to the interests of
your people because your presence says something louder than even your
HARRIS-PERRY: I think we`ve got to go, Reverend Dyson, because you just
made the sentence -- I`m not saying Obama is Jesus and I don`t want to get
written up for that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Michael Eric Dyson in Miami, Florida, this
morning. We`re laughing right now. But these are serious issues. We will
continue to discuss as we come back the question of what it means to be
present in Ferguson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: In too many
communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as
objects of fear. Through initiatives like My Brother`s Keeper I`m
personally committed to changing both perception and reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That, of course, was President Obama this past Monday and
his latest remarks on Michael Brown`s deaths and the protests in Ferguson,
Missouri. I had a lot of feelings, Juan, about the invocation of My
Brother`s Keeper in this moment. Mostly because for me when I looked at
the story of Michael Brown he seems to be a young man who is doing
precisely what a My Brother`s Keeper initiative would ask, that he comes
from difficult circumstances, he`s working hard to finish high school, he`s
been admitted into his community college, his community seems to care and
support him. And he was shot while unarmed in the middle of the day. And
so, the invocation of a kind of respectability program to address it was
disappointing to me.
CARTAGENA: Well, it doesn`t get to the issue of police abuse and
criminality and the criminalization of young men of color. I mean let`s
talk about that. Let`s talk - let`s focus exactly what we`re talking
about, police killing unarmed people. As opposed to creating the pathway
towards respectability, that`s supposed to somehow immunize you or shield
you from abuse and racism. It just doesn`t work that way, president. It
doesn`t work that way.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the president, of course - I mean the very first moment
in his presidency when this whole thing happened and he says the words that
probably are part of why he pulls back now, was when Henry Louis Gates, a
professor at Harvard University is arrested in his own home. Like you
couldn`t pull your pants up any higher than Skip wears his pants and yet it
doesn`t ultimately protect you. What Eric Holder can do is not so much
Keep My Brothers, but keep those police. And so I guess a part of what I`m
wondering is, is Eric Holder actually the right person to go in part
because DOJ has a capacity to implement consent decrees to take over local
police forces? What could we see Eric Holder and the DOJ do substantively
to keep the police off of my brothers?
SHAH: Absolutely. I think that the Department of Justice, it`s very
powerful that Eric Holder and President Obama can relate, can validate the
experience of the young people on the street. But beyond validation,
beyond sympathy, what we need is concrete action and I think the DOJ could
take a host of concrete steps including a comprehensive review and
investigation of every single murder of an unarmed person in this country,
of black and brown people in this country. In addition, it could implement
the front facing cameras that can start to actually document and record
what is happening when our young people are interacting with the police.
HARRIS-PERRY: We have 1,000 cameras on us all the time.
SHAH: Exactly. And we`ve seen the community has built that kind of
response. Look at Cop Watch. We are encouraging our young people to
actually document their experiences with the police. Because the reality
is, is what the police are saying is not what is happening. And this is
absolutely a national crisis. We are talking about the carnage of our
young people and if that doesn`t demand the president`s attention, I don`t
know what does.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jamal, you are here to represent black Twitter .
HARRIS-PERRY: . and to talk me down - because I really, you know, I am
quite generally accepting his education policy, a supporter of President
Obama. I actually really do get the institutional and media based
constraints on a president`s discourse. But I kept feeling like you just
said we were going to go bomb ISIS because of the Yazidi on the mountain,
and he said very clearly, it is unacceptable to kill women and children on
the mountain. And I was like, OK, well, I don`t agree with the policy but
I get that passion. But I just - I mean, am I asking for something that I
should not be asking for?
SIMMONS: I can get it - pull it apart a little bit.
SIMMONS: So, on the one hand you have got My Brother`s Keeper and the
other efforts which are about helping young African-Americans .
SIMMONS: And others - hold on.
SIMMONS: . to get jobs and to go to school. And these are all positive
things. You want those things to happen, right?
SIMMONS: That does not mean that getting jobs is going to protect you from
the police. Then now is a separate question, which is how do we deal with
the police state and the brutality that people face and can ask for more.
So, we know the Justice Department in this case sent 40 investigators down
to deal with this particular case. We know the attorney general is looking
at sentencing - as particularly non-violent drug offenders, maybe some of
those people who can be released earlier who were in federal prison. So,
there`s a variety of things that I think are at stake here in terms of
dealing with this community, but I think what you are getting as a broader
point about the president, which I think is a recurring theme. The
president is sort of -- he gets the lyrics right very often about when he`s
talking about. He doesn`t want to get the music, right? And so, we don`t
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I disagree. I think he`s the best at it.
SIMMONS: No, no.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean I actually think part of the reason he`s president is
because when he pulls from that reserve, he is one of the most
extraordinary people in terms of his capacity to tell us our own story back
to ourselves in a way that leads us to, you know, behave, to act, to
understand ourselves in this way. I wanted the, yes, we can, in this
SIMMONS: Right. But I think what he looks at and then he says, OK, I go
out and I do a yes we can on this and then I get beaten up and everyone
sort of focuses on what I said. But I can do a variety of things including
sending Eric Holder down there, including putting - surging 40
investigators down there, including, you know, getting a variety of things
in the Justice Department that are going to actually work on the problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s it.
SIMMONS: That`s the mix.
HARRIS-PERRY: I will just point out I think they beat him up no matter
what he does. And so given that there is maybe relatively less at stake .
SIMMONS: But on this issue I would like to hear more.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. Up next.
SIMMONS: I agree.
HARRIS-PERRY: My letter of the week. It`s not to President Obama. Don`t
worry. And later, the potential of Friday night lights on a Saturday
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1703, One, two, three!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s go.
HARRIS-PERRY: The injustices and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri have given
us weeks of stunning images and in some cases to cringe worthy analysis of
the uprisings. That`s why my letter this week is to "Time" magazine`s
political columnist Joe Klein.
Dear Joe, it`s me, Melissa. I`m writing to you today about your column,
"Beyond a Simple Solution for Ferguson." You write "At first, it seems the
perfect metaphor for 400 years of oppression, a white police officer shoots
an unarmed black teenager multiple times. He is shot with his hands up, it
is reported, at least once in the back." Joe, when a community is reeling
from an unarmed teen shot to death, when his body was left for hours in
plain view of the community, when no arrests have been made for his
slaying, when those who are protesting the killing are met with militarized
local police force and tear gas, it is not a metaphor. The people of
Ferguson and the nation are mourning the death of a real person. They are
responding to actual events and actions taken by the local government.
That this death and those actions are consistent with a long history of
similar deaths and actions makes them historically rooted, not
metaphorical. "But the perfection of the metaphor is soon blurred by
facts," you write. The gentle giant Michael Brown Jr. seems pretty
intimidating in a surveillance video.
Joe, seems pretty intimidating is not a fact. The fact is the surveillance
video shows an apparent petty crime, one that Officer Wilson did not know
about when he stopped Michael Brown and one that does not carry a death
sentence even if a person is guilty of committing it. An autopsy requested
by Brown`s parents shows six bullet wounds. The kill shot is into the top
of the victim`s head which raises another possibility that the officer,
Darren Wilson, fired in self-defense. Joe, it is certainly a possibility,
but let us traffic in facts. Officer Wilson was armed. Michael Brown was
not. Officer Wilson shot Michael Brown. Michael Brown is dead. Officer
Wilson has not been arrested. On the day that the Ferguson police finally
made Officer Wilson`s name public, they also released the surveillance
video you mentioned despite knowing that it had no bearing on the officer`s
decision stop Michael Brown. Those are the facts. You cite these
statistics, blacks represent 13 percent of the population but commit 50
percent of the murders, 90 percent of black victims are murdered by other
blacks. Joe, if you want to just cite random crime facts that have nothing
to do with this case, how about this one, 83 percent of white victims are
murdered by other white people. Your statistics about black homicide
perpetrators have nothing to do with what happened August 9. We know who
shot Michael Brown to death and it wasn`t a black man. And how about this
statistic, on average between 2006 and 2012 nearly two times a week in the
United States a white police officer killed a black person. Twice a week.
That fact would suggest Michael Brown had plenty of reason to be afraid of
Darren Wilson. Now you go on, "a debilitating culture of poverty persists
among the urban underclass. Black crime rates are much higher than they
were before the civil rights movement." Joe, the American crime rate
overall, regardless of the race of the perpetrator or victim is higher than
it was in 1960. And crime has dropped precipitously since its peak in the
`80s and `90s and it is not culture, but rather poverty that is
debilitating, because it severely reduces access to sufficient nutrition,
housing, health care, educational opportunities and sustainable employment.
As for the culture of poverty, isn`t American jazz and blues, or hip-hop
that you`re referring to because those are some of the cultural products of
the black American poor.
And in conclusion, you write, "Absent a truly candid conversation about the
culture that has emerged from slavery and segregation, these problems won`t
be solved at all." Joe, we have finally found a place of agreement. The
culture that emerged from slavery and segregation does require a candid
conversation. We need to lay bare the implicit assumptions held by many of
white superiority and black inferiority that come from slavery and
segregation, curfews, militarized police, teargas deployed on people
exercising their First Amendment rights and public officials who insist
there is no race problem and that outside agitators are responsible for all
the trouble. Definitely appears to be the residue of a cultural pathology
bred by the legacy of segregation. Now, Joe, I would be very interested in
having a candid conversation about that. Sincerely, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: One thing that has been directly affected by all of the
chaos stemming from protests over Michael Brown`s death and the violent
police reaction to it is the classroom. The Ferguson Florissant school
district remained closed for yet another week. Two, the district said in a
statement allow me the time for peace and stability to be restored in our
community. Students will return to class Monday, but one school tradition
is already back in action. High school football. McCluer North, which has
the most kids from Ferguson, lost last night, 17-0, to Jefferson City.
Three other area high schools have their games this morning including
McClair High, a school Michael Brown attended briefly and Normandy High
where Brown graduated from shortly before his death. Joining us now live
from the Normandy high game is msnbc.com reporter Amanda Sakuma. Nice to
see you, Amanda.
AMANDA SAKUMA, MSNBC.COM REPORTER: Hi.
HARRIS-PERRY: So what`s the mood at the game and sort of in the community
as folks are planning to come to the game?
SAKUMA: You know, the crowd may seem sparse right now, but it`s worth
mentioning that it`s nearly 99 degrees out here with a heat index that may
go up to 107. But still we have crowds coming out in support. Normandy
scored the opening touchdown here. They`ve just scored a touchdown again.
And the crowd seems to have this very uplifted feeling. Now we started off
the game with a moment of silence for Mike Brown, and I spoke to several
students here who said that he`s been a topic of conversation in and out of
classrooms this week. She said in her classroom they were -- teachers were
trying to channel any feelings of frustration or anger that students are
feeling and channel that into an educational experience. She said they
were told to write essays, to be able to share their feelings about not
only Mike Brown, but also the police presence here and what it means to
them and how it`s affected them around the city. But for right now the
students are able to come together and just be kids.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, you know, obviously a football game is not a
substantive policy change, but does it represent something symbolically for
folks to have this opportunity to just kind of be a community again?
SAKUMA: That`s exactly the feeling here. We have another school from
across town, but really still close and they, too, have been affected by
everything that`s going on in Ferguson. And just down -- I was on the
protests at the center early this morning, and it just had this different
feeling. There were religious groups that set up a barbecue stand. They
were giving away free ribs to people. The mood and tenor of the protests
here has really shifted than what we saw just a week ago of kind of
isolated pockets and outbursts of violence and looting.
HARRIS-PERRY: Amanda Sakuma in St. Louis, Missouri, enjoy the game.
SAKUMA: Thank you.
SAKUMA: Now, as we mentioned class in Ferguson resumes Monday and there`s
another issue for schools to grapple with. A growth in racial disparity in
suspension rates. In the 2011-2012 school year, a little more than 87
percent of Ferguson-Florissant district students receiving one out of
school suspension were blacks. And black students made up 91.4 percent of
those receiving more than one suspension. The district itself was just
more than 77 percent black that year. The education blog Dropout Nation
sums it up like this, quote, "If you`re a black kid attending Ferguson-
Florissant schools, you have at least a one in seven chance of being
subjected to some form of harsh school discipline. If you`re a white kid,
the chances are only two in 100."
Joining me now from Ferguson is Dr. Marva Robinson, president of the St.
Louis chapter of the association of black psychologists and of course my
panel is still here with me in New York. Marva, it`s nice to see you
again. We talked a week ago about some of the kind of posttraumatic
stress, grief, anger that children are likely to be experiencing. We`re
seeing now a little bit of joy and resilience in the context of a football
game. What are you expecting in the coming weeks?
DR. MARVA ROBINSON, LICENSED CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: In the coming weeks I
am expecting for more emotions to kind of come to the surface as I`ve been
seeing, but also I`m expecting to see the community to continue to rally
around those who need it. I am grateful to hear more people talking about
sadness and anger and trauma and using those therapeutic words because it
gives a voice to those who aren`t able to use it or to those that don`t
have their voices televised.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I want to come out to my panel for just one
moment, stay with us, Marva. But Allison, I want to ask you about this in
part because what I was seeing there in terms of those numbers and the kind
of criminalization of kids in classrooms feels like it mirrors so much what
we`ve been seeing on the streets in Ferguson and I`m just wondering is
there a way to tie those things to you and to put a more holistic movement?
KILKENNY: Yeah. I mean I was struck by those figures you just shared with
us because I was thinking back to when I was in high school and how many
kids had cell phones in classrooms and talked back to the teacher and like
the worst and we knew this that would happen to us was we would be sent to
the principal`s office. We would never be, you know, expelled from class
or anything like that. And I am struck, also, by the fact that in Ferguson
if this was a white suburb and the police were behaving like this, hands
down President Obama would come out and say this is a national emergency.
So either it`s a national emergency when it happens all the time, but we
can`t -- what we can can`t have is it`s OK if one sect of people are
exposed to this kind of police violence. It`s OK if one sect of children
are treated this way in classrooms. Because obviously that`s
HARRIS-PERRY: That idea, Marva, if I can come back to you for a moment,
that notion that some kids receive one sort of treatment. Another group of
kids receive another sort of treatment. We often see that in school
systems where there are big gaps in resources. Is that a reality in
ROBINSON: Yes. It is a huge reality. The way that St. Louis and the city
and county is comprised depending on which municipality or school district
you`re in determines what your success rate will be. One of the first
questions that anyone asks, a strange that they meet in St. Louis is which
high school did you go to because answering that single question alone can
determine what your success rate will be, what kind of neighborhood you
lived in, what resources you had access to. So there is a huge disparity
amongst our school districts here.
HARRIS-PERRY: What can schools do as school begins with the recognition of
what these young people have been through, what they have witnessed and
what they are likely to go through in coming months, what can schools do to
support these young people?
ROBINSON: I think schools have to acknowledge what has occurred and not
ignore that fact that while kids may be sitting in classrooms that their
minds may be elsewhere. Schools have to reach out to other organizations
and communities that are willing to come in and help them as well and help
to educate the staff as well as the teachers and the students. But schools
can also stick to great routines, increase their resources and make
services for mental health available to all students.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to come out to you for a moment, Purvi, because you
were there and you experienced teargas yourself. If you were just
beginning to guess about what young people who experience some of those
violent police reactions will be feeling in coming weeks, what is it?
SHAH: I mean I think it is -- when I was tear gassed I heard people
exclaiming, you know, they`re treating us like animals. And I think the
response of the police, the excessive militarization of the protests,
that`s the, you know, that`s the added insult to the daily indignity of
being racially profiled and criminalized and dehumanized as young people.
Now, I think this question of grief and trauma is a really central one. I
think when I went down there and I talked to young people and, you know,
there were elders in the community that were saying, you know, you don`t
want to get arrested. You don`t want to go to jail. You don`t want to die
out here protesting. And the young people said, well, we`ve been dying.
You know, we`ve been in jail. This is at least our chance, you know, to
have a different response. And I wanted to say something about the idea of
protests as a community ritual of healing. When I was out there in
Ferguson even when the teargas was going, I saw enormous amount of
community love and exchange. And we have to return protests and the idea
of community organizing and the idea of social movements to be actually a
place of healing for our communities.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is critically important to recognize that people have a
right to speak and when we silence that with bright lines and curfews and
rules it does create a kind of not only personal trauma but citizenship
trauma, right? That is the - that`s the double consciousness that .
CARTAGENA: It`s - to be said.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Dr. Marva Robinson in Ferguson, Missouri. Here
on set I`d also like to thank Purvi Shah, Jamal Simmons, Allison Kilkenny
and Juan Cartagena. Up next, our foot soldier of the week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re out here to clean up the community. To show
how we build up the community, not take it down. And for all of our
teachers thought it would be wonderful to kick off the day with cleaning up
the community on West Florissant.
HARRIS-PERRY: Clashes between police and protesters in Ferguson community
delayed school in Ferguson last week. The classes are finally set to begin
on Monday. But while school was out, many Ferguson area teachers were
still on the job. Helping their students. And that`s why they are our
foot soldiers of the week. Teachers like Carrie Pace. Though her school
was closed, she made sure the lessons continued. This week, Pace and other
teachers turned a meeting room at the Ferguson public library into a small
classroom where they offered their students lessons in math, reading and
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARRIE PACE, TEACHER: At least to be here doing these sort of fun quasi-
educational activities and socially it`s a good thing for the kids, too,
who have been really bummed out to be able to be here with some of the
friends they know and they`re kind of meeting new people too, and so it`s
been a good thing for everybody involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Dozens of educators across the Ferguson area have also used
the unexpected delay to help clean up debris from nighttime unrest. In
Ferguson-Florissant, 68 percent of students in the district rely on a free
or reduced lunch program at school last year. So to make sure that no
children were going hungry because they weren`t in school, some teachers
pitched in at local school cafeterias this week as well. Bagged lunches
were provided for the students in the Ferguson Florissant school district
this week and the Riverview Gardens school district was able to supply 300
children with lunch. While the Jennings district kept its cafeteria doors
open despite school closures. Teachers efforts to help out have been
extended even beyond the state of Missouri. One fifth grade teacher from
North Carolina, Julianna Mendelsohn, launched a campaign to raise money for
the St. Louis area food bank in an effort to provide students and their
families with meals. So far, she has raised more than $150,000.
For not letting closed classroom doors keep them from helping their
community, for reminding us that teachers are not just in the classroom,
they are in the community. For reminding us that taking care of our
teachers means taking care of all of us, the teachers from Ferguson and
beyond who are lending a helping hand are highlighted for us today as our
foot soldiers of the week. And that is our show for today. Tomorrow,
we`re going to have more show. We`re going to see you 10:00 Eastern. But
right now, it`s time for a preview of "Weekends with Alex Witt." Melissa
Reinberg is filling in. Hi, Melissa.
MELISSA REINBERG, MSNBC: Hey, Melissa. Thank you. We will hear from a
college student who met with Eric Holder this week in Ferguson. He will
tell us what he wanted to hear from the attorney general and what resonated
the most of him. Also, Rand Paul`s humanitarian work in Guatemala, was it
all good works or a nod towards 2016? And we`ll show you the great garbage
patch floating in the Pacific Ocean. It`s about the size of Texas, if you
can believe that. We`ll tell you what it`s doing to the ecosystem. Don`t
go anywhere. We`ll be right back.
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