'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, January 4th, 2015
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: January 4, 2015
Guest: Blair Kelley, Amy Goodman, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Jamie Kilsten,
Ed Pawlowski, Blair Kelley, Marquez Claxton, Marquis Govan
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my questions, what is the
role of white people in a racial justice movement?
Plus, Nicki Minaj and Macklemore on the artist as activist.
And marijuana country, Colorado one year after legalization.
But first, the role of the police then and now.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
This morning, mourners are gathering for the funeral of New York police
department detective Wenjian Liu who was killed in the line of duty on
December 20th along with his partner Detective Rafael Ramos. Liu and Ramos
were shot to death as they sat in their cruiser in a Brooklyn neighborhood,
targeted solely because they were police officered.
Liu was 32 years old, a Chinese-American immigrant and a newlywed. He and
his wife were married just three months before he was killed. Liu joined
the NYPD seven years ago after serving for years as an auxiliary police
officer. According to the "Daily News," Liu`s father said his son had
dedicated himself to becoming an officer right after the 9/11 terrorist
attacks which took the lives of 22 members of the NYPD. Detective Liu will
be laid to rest today.
Now, all funerals are emotional, but police funerals are especially so.
The sea of officers in dress uniform standing there in their own
vulnerability expressing solidarity with someone most of them have never
even met. It can be raw and deeply sad. Of course, we know that this
particular police funeral is happening in the context of an ongoing
national conversation, and frankly, a critique about the practices of local
police forces throughout the country, including the NYPD. And as part of
that conversation, I thought it might be worth talking about the history of
policing in America. Because it didn`t always look as it does today.
In the early days of American cities, law and order was kept by part-time
constables, that night watchmen. New York had four night watchmen in 1698
who were paid to patrol the streets and arrest those committing crimes. By
1834, New York had hundreds of watchmen patrolling the streets at night.
But they were no well disciplined force. They were poorly paid, untrained,
and often corrupt.
Now, in the south, early policing took the form of slave patrols, which
were tasked with preventing uprisings, breaking up gatherings of enslaved
people and hunting down runaways. There was little policing of white
southerners who were generally allowed to settle disputes among themselves,
even violently. In fact, it wasn`t until the mid-1800s in east coast
cities that the municipal police forces that we know today were first
established, in part, to keep order in the wake of riots against immigrants
-- Catholics, abolitionists and free black people.
Boston created one of the country`s full-time police departments at 1837 at
the urging of Boston`s mayor who argued it was need in the wake of three
riots. The burning of a catholic convent and girls school by a mob in
1834, the riot outside a meeting of the female anti-slavery society in 1835
in which a crowd of thousands attacked the abolitionist William Lloyd
Garrison and forced him to flee the city, and the broad to be bright (ph)
at 1837 when volunteer firefighters fought with the attendants of Irish
catholic funeral procession in a brawl that became an all out riot with
fire companies around the city joining the may light that lasted for hours
before the militia intervened.
And New York on many rights 1830s, in the summer of 1834, thousands of
white New Yorkers spent days systematically looting the homes of prominent
abolitionists, burning churches, terrorizing mixed race neighborhoods and
beating black individuals. When the police and mayor came to break it up,
the rioters beat them away. When the calvary broke-up one riot, the mob
It took days and the deputization of 1,000 special constables to quell the
violence. It was in response to these riots, these new urban unrest police
departments were formed. And for the first time, patrolmen were charged
with not only responding to crime and catching criminals but with
preventing crime as well.
Now, fast forward 150 years. The NYPD now has nearly 35,000 uniformed
officers. And there are more than 12,000 local police departments across
the country, many unionized. And over the past several decades, they have
become increasingly outfitted with military equipment. Police have
undergone various waves of reform and changes in strategy and more are
need. Also does well to remember the local police departments that are
relating positively to their communities, even in these tense times.
Take the metropolitan Nashville police department. At a protest in
November, police handed out hot chocolate and coffee, and the chief decided
not to arrest protesters who marched onto the interstate but instead
stopped traffic while they held a die-in. Now, not everyone in Nashville
was onboard with that method.
Last week, the chief, Steve Anderson, made public an email he received from
one of his critics and his response.
The critic wrote quote "how long are we going to allow these people to
disrupt our city? I have a son who I have raised to respect police
officers and other authority figures, but if he comes to me today and asked
why are the police allowing this? I wouldn`t have a good answer."
In response, Chief Anderson offered a hypothetical that the writer was
stopped for speeding and let off with a warning rather than a ticket as
Nashville police do in five cases out of six. As you have suggested, a
question may come to you from the back seat, how can I respect the police
if they will not enforce the law?
Take into account, however, that the innocence of children can produce the
most profound and probing questions. They often see the world in a very
clear and precise manner. Their eyes unclouded by the biases life gives
us. This could produce the next question, if you believe that the police
should enforce the law at all times, why didn`t you insist that the officer
write you a ticket? I don`t have a suggestion as to how that should be
Joining me now, Khalil Gibran Muhammad who is director of Schomburg center
for research in black culture and Amy Goodman, host and executive producer
of democracy now.
Thank you both for being here.
Amy, I wanted to point out that this Chief Anderson in Nashville is also
emblematic that having good outcomes does not require being tough on your
citizens, that there`s been a precipitous decline in Nashville crime, that
the only officer to die since this police chief took over was in a
vehicular accident as opposed to being shot and killed. I`m wondering if
there is something either in the history of policing or in these moments
that can help us think about a better way to go forward.
AMY GOODMAN, HOST/EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, DEMOCRACY NOW: Well, I mean, I think
he presents a wonderful example of what it means to be a peace officer,
because that`s what police officers are supposed to be. And if you want to
maintain the peace, first and foremost, you need good community police
relations where people understand each other, where people in the community
are not afraid to turn to the police if there`s a problem because so often
that could lead to something terrible.
In the same way Bill de Blasio in dealing with the protests here, I mean,
overwhelmingly peaceful protests, compare that to Michael Bloomberg
eviscerating, you know, with all the police with their weapons taking down
the occupy encampments when Bill de Blasio was there visiting.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, this idea of police community of relations and the
need to build trust, Khalil, has kept feeling to me in recent months as
though that burden rests on the community. The community should learn to
trust the police. And again, one of the things I liked about this
Nashville chief, he wrote also in the letter, it`s laudable that you`re
teaching your son respect for the police and other authority figures.
However, a better lesson might be it`s the government the police serve that
should be respected. The police are merely a representative of the
government formed by the people, for the people, for all people. Being
respectful of the governments would mean being respectful of all persons,
no matter what their view. But this idea of connecting the state and of
suggesting that respect must be earned as opposed to be given because of
KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD, DIRECTOR, SCHOMBURG CENTER: I think that`s exactly
right. First of all, Chief Anderson like the mayor of Minneapolis are to
be applauded as representatives and there are others out there. So we want
to hold up people who are not only practicing what they preach, but also
willing to do something on a bigger scale than just their local community.
Here`s a man who is comfortable saying I have something that can be shared
with the nation. That being said, the issue with policing is that this
country is undergoing dramatic demographic changes. And what we keep
missing in this conversation about the police is that they are changing,
MUHAMMAD: And somehow, the disconnect between who the communities that are
served by policing and the officers themselves, there`s a complete short
circuiting. Patrick Lynch of the PBA, for example, stands in as a kind of
century old representation of Irish-American authority in the body of
working class men who rise through civil service ranks in the form of
policing. And yet somehow, that relationship to African-Americans, to
Asian-Americans, to Latino-Americans, the very communities that are
supposed to be served and represented are not represented by that
leadership. And that to me is what Mr. Anderson is getting it.
He is saying to the citizens of Nashville that we serve these communities
as representatives of government. I`m not here as an old white American
representative of traditions of the 19th century and we are gate keepers of
power and privilege that keep aliens at the gate and barbarians at the gate
who don`t belong here. That is the model of government and policing
practice that is not taking place right here in this city.
GOODMAN: It goes way back. I mean, go to that 1992 police riot at city
hall where 10,000 police officers protested, a number of them rioted. They
called Mayor Dinkins a washroom attendant. They said his color is yellow
Now, sometimes, I mean, it also happened under Bloomberg and the Giuliani
administrations. It`s about police union contracts. But in the case of
Mayor Dinkins, he wanted to support a civilian complaint review board.
This doesn`t endanger police. It protects them. Good cops care about good
MUHAMMAD: And it ought to be consistent. The notion of being watched
while you`re doing your job ought to be consistent with being a peace
We`re going to talk much more about the police, including that 1992
question as we move forward. But before we get there, I want you to stay
right with us because mourners are currently gathering for the funeral of
slain New York police department detective Wenjian Liu. We`re going to
continue to bring you updates from the event.
But after the break, the challenge of an interracial movement for racial
justice, the moment when New York Mayor Bill de Blasio changed the
HARRIS-PERRY: NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton has warned his officers not
to turn their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio when he speak at this morning`s
funeral for slain detective Wenjian Liu, as some did at funeral last week`s
funeral for Liu`s partner, Rafael Ramos.
Now, some officers feel disrespected by the mayor in part because of what
has de Blasio said after a grand jury failed to indict an officer for the
chokehold death of Eric Garner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK: Charlaine and I have had to talk to Dante
for years about the dangers he may face. Good young man, law abiding young
man who never would think to do anything wrong, and yet because of a
history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we have had to
literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades in how
to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who
are there to protect him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, what he was saying there wasn`t something we haven`t
heard before, but the optics of it were very powerful. The mayor, a white
man, talking about his son, an African-American youth, and it leads me to
ask, in a movement marching under the banner black lives matter, what is
the role of white people?
Joining my panel now a white guy, Jamie Kilsten who is co-host of citizen
radio, and Blair Kelley, associate professor of history at North Carolina
So I think I`ll start with you, Jamie, just on this idea that in a movement
which is about this question of black life, where do we see the role of
white allies or people in general?
JAMIE KILSTEN, CO-HOST, CITIZEN RADIO: Just to not be horrible, right?
Like that`s sort of all we have to do, like, don`t be racist, listen, and
sometimes shut up. So I think what it is, is you want to show solidarity,
right? But what you don`t want to do is be that white guy at the protest
for Eric Gardner who when people are no justice no peace, and be like, and
go vegan. Like there are things that I care about that, you know, it`s
just the time to show up and support and show that there`s solidarity and
not hijack it. And I have seen white people try to hijack before, which is
very different. It`s like if you get called out, if you screw up, what
you`re going to screw up, you`re a white guy, right?
If you screw up and someone calls you out, someone of color, someone you
claim to be defending, you have to listen. I think that`s the most
HARRIS-PERRY: So I get all the ways in which that`s the right answer,
right? And particularly sort of like, you know, how to be a good ally 101,
But Blair, I guess there`s a part of me that also think, you know, some of
the most exquisite histories written about African-American life and
leadership have been written by white historians. And there are many
moments when I would want those white people to be speaking while African-
American students are quite like -- that the right -- that the notion that
identity itself is sufficient for leadership is also inadequate.
BLAIR KELLEY, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY: Yes,
because there is a knowledge base, right? There is experiential -- I mean
there are some old white snit folk who would be incredible in the midst --.
HARRIS-PERRY: Snick being the student o nonviolent coordinating.
KELLEY: Who in 1960s helped organize these innovated and brilliant
protests and they were working alongside people like John Lewis (ph) and
(INAUDIBLE). And they know just as much about what it takes to make that
kind of movement because they have done it over time. So all white people
aren`t equal, and --
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean in their humanity, all people, right.
KELLEY: They`re not equal in their ability to inform this protest in an
intelligent fashion. And so, we want allies to engage in the movement on
all levels, right. You want less professional allies to engage. You want
people who are honestly moved by the question that is going on to step and
put their lives on the line, too. You want that engagement, you`re making
an argument to the country and you need different kinds of people to see
different kinds of people making that argument.
GOODMAN: And this is not just a black problem in the United States. This
is, well, you know, de Blasio said it in his speech, but an American
problem, an American challenge. If we see this as well, when a black
person is killed by a police officer, that`s a black problem. If a Latino
person is killed by an officer, that`s a Latino problem. We`re all in this
together. And there are even good police officers who are horrified by
what has taken place who are speaking out.
Those police officers who turned their back on de Blasio, I don`t know if
they represent the majority of the police force. They were very up front.
They were right there where the cameras were. But I have spoken with many
police officers who are horrified by that.
HARRIS-PERRY: But this idea that it is in the interest of white Americans
as well to be part of a movement of racial justice, I guess I sometimes
wonder about that. So I both see how that can be absolutely true, that to
the extent we`re perfecting our union, we want a more egalitarian union.
But to the extent that whiteness carries with it certain privileges. If
you`re operating fully in one`s own economic interest, isn`t it preferable
to not be part of that movement?
MUHAMMAD: Yes. Well, the history of the country is predicated on
disadvantage, structural disadvantage. So it`s not just about the
psychological benefits of feeling good about being part of a civic culture
that is euro centric in its core and that prides who you are, you
represented. And I mean, you have children, take your children to see
movies, and with the exception of Annie, it`s like, my God, everything
about the world re-enforces that you have propriety, that you belong.
Walter Dean Meyers, for example, before he died last year, pointed out only
92 of 3200 children`s books featured African-American protagonists.
So there`s a lot to be said about the way in which the color lines still
re-enforces who counts in this country. And therefore, even without
conspiracy, even without being insidious or part of something, somehow you
see those people as challenging what the nation stands for. What Bill de
Blasio did in that press conference wasn`t just about re-enforcing the
experience of his child, which is echoed by black officers on the NYPD, but
also, he surrounded himself by black people.
I mean, not to be too aggressive in this comment, but there is something to
be said about perhaps there was race betrayal there, right? Here`s the
leader of the biggest city in the biggest police force surrounded by black
people, legitimating black people and black experiences through the lens of
his own child and all of a sudden, this is not the America most of us know.
HARRIS-PERRY: (INAUDIBLE), I guess that part of what I am wondering,
Jamie, we`ll pick it up as we come back, but whether or not the personal
experience of experiencing having less privilege as a result of one`s
proximity to blackness as a result of either having an interracial family
or a beloved or being part of a movement which all of a sudden takes away
your white privilege and then, right, there`s a kind of opening of that
experience in the way that we saw with de Blasio.
Hold on. We are going to talk about all that and just so much more when we
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have been doing the same actions the entire evening.
We marched together, we chanted together, we have dines together, doing the
exact same actions the entire night. But when police came, I watched as
they ripped Shaun away, two of them, and then I offered myself up to be
arrested as well, and the police officer who tackled me, he took me down.
I put my hands behind my back to indicate I`m ready to be arrested and he
just leaned forward and whispered in my ear, just get out of here.
HARRIS-PERRY: No such offer to just get offer was made to you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No action for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Benjamin Perry (ph) and Shawn Torres (ph), students
at Union Theological seminary describing their disparate treatment by
police for the same protest action last month.
And Blair, I wanted to play that. I was thinking, I think in part, because
we`re going to go see "Selma" tonight, Reverend James Reed, Viola Luozo,
these people who were also not given the option to get out of there, who
were killed as white allies in the civil rights movement.
KELLEY: Ye. But the movie remembered their contributions. They amplify
the question for America in a particular kind of way because of their
bodies. So their engagement with the movement is sincere, right? They`re
longtime, lifetime activists who were, you know, putting their lives on the
line for other Americans to have those same freedoms. And their sacrifice,
you know, they become other people, they become killable, they become
tainted by blackness in a particular kind of way and movement.
And so when they die, though, the American media sees their death as
different than the deaths of black activists in the same places in the same
kinds of circumstances. And so the amplification of white bodies is an
interesting phenomenon, but activists knew that, right? So snick is in
Mississippi starting in 1960s. I mean, they`re building field offices,
they are working and people are being killed, and no one is paying any
attention. So they actively draw in white volunteers for freedom summer --
HARRIS-PERRY: Because they recognize --
KELLEY: Simply because they`re playing into the media. So there is
awareness, but that`s a painful awareness.
GOODMAN: And look at the freedom summer, when they were looking for the
bodies of Mickey Schwerner (ph), James Cheney and Andrew Goodman over those
44 days, the civil rights workers who were killed. They dug up so many
black bodies on the way to finding their bodies dug into this earthen dam,
what does that say?
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. But the headline, the thing that brings us is
because of that sense of the value of the white bodies.
KILSTEN: Yes. And I was thinking about that in relation to what you were
saying before break. And I`m really glad Amy brought up occupy in the
earlier segment because I think about that a lot. Sometimes white people
being there, it`s important for a sad reason. And for the reasons you guys
were just talking ability, where, like, I remember when my white journalist
friends were getting arrested. There were a lot of people white people out
who were being brutalize in occupy who were like, my God, is this what
happens to black people every day? Like if they can come for a salon
blogger one day, they`re going to come for a democracy now intern the next
Everybody was like so shocked. And it`s just like, hey, this is what
happens like every day in a lot of other communities. And so, I think when
it comes back to the whole being a good ally, I do think it`s important to
be out there, unfortunately, because, you know, we do live in a country
that values white lives over black, but that`s why the protests are
HARRIS-PERRY: And particularly, I also just want to mention values blue
lives in a particular way, and it`s a tough thing to talk about on a day
where an innocent man who should not have been killed and was killed only
because of his identity is going to be laid to rest.
But the difference in some of the discourse around it, so I just wanted to
share, there was a Los Angeles police department officer who is here
talking about the killings and says it doesn`t matter if it happens here or
in L.A. or in Louisiana, it`s an act of savagery that should be condemned
So on the one hand, I agree with that. It should be condemned by society.
But also, that language was so rarely used to talk about, for example, the
death of Tamir Rice, 12 years old, shot to death on a playground, which
also feels like the sort of thing that should be condemned, that we should
not kill 12-year-old on a playground.
MUHAMMAD: But there is also a way to which we can part mental these
moments, these moments in the tragedy where police officers are slain
innocently because we know in Las Vegas, just last year, I believe, I have
forgotten the date, but two officers were killed in a Cici`s pizza in Las
Vegas by two anti-government activists who that don`t thread on being
(INAUDIBLE) at the scene of the crime.
HARRIS-PERRY: But it wasn`t racialized?
MUHAMMAD: It was not racialized. It was not a national commentary on
what`s wrong with white people and their hatred of by police officers. It
was not a reflection of savagery in the core of society. It really didn`t
translate beyond what we already know to be true, which is that there are
more anti-government militia groups in the wake of the Obama two-term
presidency. And yet that doesn`t animate any of our conversations about
what`s going on in white America and its position towards authorities and
government in particular.
KILSTEN: I want to see think pieces on like what is the message behind
country music that these men who will go and, you know, it`s one of those
things where it`s so sad what happened to these cops. And I`m glad that
there is an outrage over it, but I`m hear heartbroken that the outrage
pales in comparison to what happened to Eric Gardner or that it`s OK for
the police to protest de Blasio but it`s not OK for people to protest for
HARRIS-PERRY: Khalil is going to be right back on the next hour, the rest
of the panel is sticking around. Stay right there.
Mourners are currently gathering for the funeral of slain New York police
department detective Wenjian Liu. We`ll have a live report later in the
And up next, the artist as activist, Nicki Minaj and Macklemore on the cost
of speaking out and the lesson of Kanye West.
HARRIS-PERRY: On December 8th, Cleveland`s Lebron James wore this shirt
before the Brooklyn Nets game showing his solidarity with New York City
protesters after the decision of the Staten Island grand jury not to indict
anyone in the death of Erin Garner.
And none other than Jay-Z helped arranged the delivery of the shirts to
members of the nets team for the same game. On December 14th, Andrew
Hawkins wore this shirt, showing his support for the families of Tamir Rice
and John Crawford III, who were killed by police in Ohio.
But these instances of athlete activism have left some wondering how
recording artists are participating in the dialogue. (INAUDIBLE) Questlove
addressed the apparent scarcity of musical engagement in current activism
during an in an interview with billboard, referring to the backlash the
Dixie chicks received in 2003 after saying they were ashamed President Bush
was from Texas.
Quest said, I think a lot of it is just due to fear of being blackballs and
not making a living.
Nicki Minaj echoed that sentiment in her "Rolling Stone" interview released
Friday, after rhetorically posing the question, why aren`t black
celebrities speaking out more, the artist cited reactions to Kanye West`s
remarks about the government response to hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Minaj said look what happened to Kanye when he spoke out? People told him
to apologize to Bush, because how many times can you be made to feel
horrible for caring about your people before you say it`s not worth it.
And in a radio interview with hot 97 (INAUDIBLE) in the morning, rapper
Macklemore did squirm a bit when (INAUDIBLE) asked him about police
misconduct and race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talk about what you`re seeing right now and how
Macklemore feels about it.
MACKLEMORE, RAPPER: That`s a lot. It`s a lot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But the rest of the response took some listeners by surprise
when he answered the question head on and addressed his own, quote, white
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MACKLEMORE: How do I get involved on a level where I`m not co-opting the
movement or I`m not making about I it about me but also realizing the
platform that I have and the reach I have and doing it in an authentic
genuine way. Silence is my action. It`s my privilege that I can be silent
about this issue. And I`m tired about being silent about it. Like I have
been silent for a long time because I didn`t want to mess up, I didn`t want
to say the wrong thing, didn`t want to offend anybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All of which leads me to ask, can artists be effective
More on that when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Here is the question. What is the role of the artist in
Joining me now is Toure, co-host of MSNBC`s "THE CYCLE."
So what do you say? Can artists be effective activist?
TOURE, MSNBC HOST, "THE CYCLE": Can artist be effective activist? Well,
you had Harry Belafonte on the show before, so obviously, yes, they can be
effective activists. It`s hard for a lot of them, because as Questlove was
talking about, there are those commerce concerns that a lot of them have.
Now in the modern era where the record industry is breaking down and we
make money or they make money via touring, so direct relationship with the
fans, I don`t see why they would be afraid of, I mean, the record industry
coming in, but I mean, they do --
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s interesting. I want to pause on that for a second.
So the notion of a more direct relationship to the people might actually
create greater incentives for activism because you don`t have a record
company worried. That`s an interesting kind of twist on the idea of the
commerce within mainstream artists.
TOURE: No, absolutely. I mean, touring has been the main way you make
money. But as the record labels break down and they have a harder time
creating massive artists, then yes, you`re having a one to one relationship
with your fans trying to get them to see you on tour in smaller and smaller
venues. So why not make that big step?
Now generally, artists, even as we look back, artists make popular stance,
right? They`re against war, right? Now, who`s going to say, well,
actually, we need to have war sometimes, right? You know, I remember
Stevie Wonder having songs against Richard Nixon. Well at that time, it
was super controversial to make that stand. So you know, quite, you know,
the things public enemy did, you know, even hip-hop was great about anti-
aids messages, right, and wearing condoms, right? Very powerful important
stuff. Is that really controversial, though, to ask artists to make stands
that cleave their audience in half, potentially, is very difficult and
doesn`t often happen.
KELLEY: But I do think there`s a history of hip-hop that has an incredible
consciousness, right? So all of the hip-hop that still in play in my life,
which is all 20, 25 years old, it was a style of hip-hop, right? To be
conscious with a requirement among a whole crew of artists, and to say
substantive things ability the things happening around them. But I mean,
it fell out of style. So the way --
TOURE: The audience changed.
KELLEY: The audience changed and the way new hip-hop folk differentiating
themselves from old school, which is now old school, hip-hop is that they
stopped being conscious. And so, the new style became consumption, and
then the new style became whatever the heck is going on now.
KILSTEN: Yes, I like what you are saying about just being against broad
topics, like being against war. Because then, when someone takes it a step
further, like when the kid from one direction had a flag of Palestine,
people were just like, not that war. No, shh, about them.
But I do think people can still get in trouble. One of the things I
thought was so interesting that Nicki Minaj talked about who I checked to
see if she follows me on twitter every day and she doesn`t, was when she
talks about Kanye West. George Bush was -- everyone, no one likes George
Bush. He was unpopular. He made his statement and suddenly the story got
turned. It wasn`t about levees breaking. It was about Kanye West`s mean
words against George Bush. Somehow, that was the story. Somehow his words
brought down the levees.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet there was -- so that`s an interesting moment. I
mean, maybe it`s worth going back just because why don`t we watch Kanye
saying what he said so we remember.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KANYE WEST, SINGER: You see a black family that says they`re looting, see
a white family, it says they`re looking for food. And you know that it`s
been five days because most of the people are black. George Bush doesn`t
care about black people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, Toure, you can see a certain level -- he`s like, I`m
about to say something that is going to be a thing. That is not Kanye
today. That is Kanye a decade ago. You can see his stress about what he`s
about to say. And yet also, he was actually calling out the media, right?
He was calling out George Bush, and also calling out a media that was
representing black life in these troubling ways.
TOURE: Sure. And you know, I always see that moment, people talk about,
well, he`s stilted right? He`s not getting the words out. As you and I
know, he is looking at a prompter and saying words that are not on the
HARRIS-PERRY: That are not on the prompter.
TOURE: That is difficult. So that`s part of why he`s not saying it as
strongly as he could. But, you know, that sort of speaking truth to power
is at the heart of hip-hop. And I have been disappointed over the last few
years of seeing not -- seeing not enough of that. And I didn`t see that
vis-a-vie the recession. Vis-a-vie rising inequality which folks know at a
deep personal level. They live in this world. They live in a world of
inequality. Why aren`t they speaking more about that, you know? I think
we see some of that in Eminem and that he`s not wearing the bling that was
becoming this ridiculous trend, but I want to see more of that.
HARRIS-PERRY: I wonder, Amy, this is such an interesting point, this idea
of economic inequality, and it goes to something we talked about yesterday
about individual success. And another part of hip-hop artistry has been
about like the individual bravado and that I can make it and I`ve done it.
And I wonder even in the notion of like individual success, we take out the
capacity to talk about structural inequalities.
GOODMAN: Well, I mean, celebrity is very important. What is the
responsibility that comes with celebrity because so many people know you.
I think about Bruce Springsteen, not hip-hop, right? Remember American
skin, 41 shots, after (INAUDIBLE) was killed. He dared to sing that at the
meadowlands. And I think the police said that they wouldn`t do overtime.
They wouldn`t work to protect if he sang the song. He sang it anyway.
And you know, again, it`s an extremely sad day today with the second police
officer killed, but what will protect all life, what will protect the
future of our Eric Garners of the world, as well as Officer Liu, as well as
Officer Ramos, is people speaking out at every level wherever they are.
Tom Morrello (ph) does, Michael Fronte (ph) does it. They have all come
out with these songs. March to Ferguson and others, because they can`t
help it. It`s their life, it`s what they breathe.
HARRIS-PERRY: So we have to go to break. And there`s so much more. I do
want to say thank you to Toure. I appreciate it when you came and hang
out. Thank you also to Jamie Kilsten. Amy and Blair actually be back in
the next hour.
As we go out, I do want to take a listen to Harry Belafonte who was on our
show talking about this question of platform.
And when we come back after that, I`m going to do a little segment that I
really wanted to call getting high with Harry, but they wouldn`t let me.
But we are going to talk marijuana with Harry Smith when we return, no
matter what it is they call it.
But let`s listen to Harry Belafonte on our way out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY BELAFONTE, SINGER: I think the artists have a platform. They have a
power. They have a gift. And by using that gift and that power and
putting it in the service of those who are being ground out by inequity and
by systems that are unjust, we begin to put a light and a new dynamic into
what it is that`s going on with the poor, going on with those who are
racially oppressed, sexually abused.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s been just over a year since Colorado made history by
becoming the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. Soon, Oregon,
Washington, Alaska, and the District of Columbia will join them.
Legal pot has become big business with the nationwide sales topping $2.6
billion last year and intrepid entrepreneurs are cashing in on residents`
and tourists` needs for weed. In a new documentary premiering on CNBC
tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m., NBC News correspondent Harry Smith takes us
inside the booming Colorado marijuana industry.
HARRY SMITH, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Colorado is now home to
more than 500 pot stores, one of the biggest is called medicine man.
Here`s an industry that doesn`t even exist in Colorado five years ago.
Five years later, you have cloud technology --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: State of the art.
SMITH: To operate your grow rooms.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s been a wild ride. I got to tell you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re not a bunch of stoners sitting around in tie
dyed t-shirts, and you know, smoking pot. It`s a true American industry.
SMITH: Andy Williams and his sister, Sally Vanderveer (ph), along with
their brother Pete, run the company. Their high-tech grow facility
produces 120 pounds of pot a week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing? Welcome to medicine man, brother.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do more business out of this one location than
anybody else. We`re opening a second that`s going to do more business than
this location. And we are drinking from a fire hose.
SMITH: They`re pioneers in the bewildering wilderness of legal weed. The
federal government still views marijuana as a schedule I drug, so most
banks won`t come near it.
Can you bank yet? Do you have a relationship with --?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s a really good story. We have lost countless
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We lost a lot of banks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bank kicked us out after we sent a check to the
federal government for taxes this year.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They shutdown April 14th.
SMITH: They can`t bank drug money, but the state can. Colorado is on
track to collect almost $50 million in taxes and fees this year on sales
that topped half a billion dollars.
HARRIS-PERRY: Harry Smith joins me now.
Harry, you were saying as we were watching this, he`s out in the middle of
nowhere in a warehouse district, if that were a Walmart doing that kind of
business, if that were a McDonald`s, right, the other store would be
collating, it would be an economic growth engine.
But then at the end, that idea that they can`t even bank, that they`re
being shut down, are we, as a nation, having not gone federal with this,
actually sort of stepping on our own tows in terms of economic development.
SMITH: The economics are so interesting because here`s between the legal
pot that they sell, the recreational, what they call it, and the medical,
the over half a billion dollars in sales in Colorado alone, yet because
it`s taxed so highly, there`s still a thriving black market there. All of
this is, Governor Hickenlooper there calls it a social experiment. And
Colorado is the Petri dish.
So everything that we watch there, it continues to evolve and morph and
change. So whatever you say about it today will be different tomorrow and
the day after and the day after.
HARRIS-PERRY: You were there close to a year ago. Does it feel
dramatically different to you when you went back this time?
SMITH: The dust is settling a little bit, but as they figure out what
works and doesn`t work, the regulatory landscape continues to change. The
goalpost gets moved all the time. The people who are really making it are
the ones that have real business acumen, are the ones who absolutely follow
the letter of the law all the way down to the finest little ink point.
Those are the ones who will succeed. The others may end up being left
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, that`s sort of true of American capitalist start-ups
in general principal.
SMITH: Exactly right.
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the most interesting moments for me is when you had a
conversation with a veteran about the ways in which marijuana, cannabis, is
being used by veterans to actually calm PTSD symptoms.
SMITH: Sure. You`ll meet a guy in the documentary and there was a huge
piece in the "Washington Post" just in the last couple weeks, there is kind
of a ground swell among veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who are saying
basically, I don`t want opiates. I don`t want to poison myself. I don`t
want bar witch wits (ph).
Let me smoke a little weed, man, just please, smoke a little weed. This is
natural, organic, as they would say, substance. Isn`t that maybe a better
alternative from their perspective? The question they`re asking, than the
stuff you`re telling me, I ought to take.
HARRIS-PERRY: But see, I wonder if there`s incredulity about that, because
of the long history of the that being a ban, illegal drug and substance,
that people say, if you were taking, you know, Prozac, then we believe it`s
making you better, but you`re trying to get high. It doesn`t actually make
you any better.
SMITH: Without a doubt, there`s still a gigantic stigma. This thing was
made a schedule I drug years ago. Probably never should have been made a
schedule I drug. And let me just say as a person who doesn`t use
marijuana, I`m not sitting here advocating. I`m just sitting here watching
this landscape. I say every time I go out there and come back and say,
it`s like watching a genie coming out of a bottle and it`s never going back
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you about race. One of the groups of activists
most interested in the decriminalization of marijuana have been racial
justice advocates who say the impact on our communities because of the
aspect of crime and criminalization is even more important than any kind of
medicinal and economic benefits. Are you seeing any of that aspect
emerging in Colorado?
SMITH: In terms of what`s important on the street there, marijuana,
because it`s legal, isn`t such an important issue. Hasn`t been there
because it was decriminalized some years ago, but this interesting thing
about decriminalization, marijuana was decriminalized in New York in the
1970s. One of the aspects of that was used in stop and frisk was empty
As long as the joint comes out of the pocket, then it`s in public. And
that makes you culpable, right? There is a lot of, you know, however, you
want to play this is how you want to play this. And you can spin it, turn
it upside down, empty people out. It`s very interesting.
But I think demographically, what you`re seeing, you have 23 states now
with medical marijuana is legal. You have states that you just mentioned,
they`ll be ballot measures probably in 16, maybe even in California.
There`s a demographic comparative that runs parallel, gay marriage and
legalization of marijuana. Fifty percent is here, ten years ago is way
below. Now it`s up above.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is so fascinating to watch how this will emerge,
particularly in the context of a 2016 election that very well may give you
a Republican president and national legalized marijuana. Wouldn`t that be
SMITH: And imagine if you will with a Republican president if he tells
states like Colorado not on my watch, that`s scheduled --.
HARRIS-PERRY: Or even if she tells them that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you so much to Harry Smith. And don`t miss the
premiere of "Marijuana Country, the cannabis boom," this Monday, January
5th, at 9:00 p.m. eastern on CNBC.
And coming up next, the funeral of slain New York police Officer Wenjian
Liu is set to begin shortly. We`ll have a live report and discuss the
continuing complexity of policing in America.
There is more MHP show at the top o the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. The funeral of
slain New York Police Officer Wenjian Liu is set to get under way now at a
funeral home in Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn here in New York. Both
32-year-old Liu and his partner Detective Rafael Ramos were killed in an
ambush shooting on December 20th as they sat in their patrol car in
Brooklyn Bedford-Stuy neighborhood. Now, the gunman killed himself a short
time later in a nearby subway station. Detective Liu was New York City`s
first Chinese-American police officer to be shot and killed in the line of
duty. In a funeral today, it will combine a tradition service for New York
police officers with a ceremony led by Buddhist monks. We`re standing by
this hour for remarks expected to be delivered by New York City Mayor Bill
de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.
Now, joining us now from outside the funeral in Dyker Heights is MSNBC
reporter Adam Reiss. Adam, can you tell us what you`ve seen there this
ADAM REISS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Melissa. The ceremony is
about to begin. Thousands of officers lining the streets here from New
York City, around the country, as far away as Canada to come pay their
final respects, of final goodbye to Officer Wenjian Liu. Thirty two-years
old, seven years on the force, married for just two months. Today, he`s
the first Chinese officer killed in the line of duty. Now, we expect to
hear from the FBI director, the mayor, the police commissioner, as well as
Officer Liu`s wife and father. Now, when the mayor gives his eulogy, we`ll
be looking at the officers here to see if they once again turn their backs
on him. Commissioner Bratton has said that this is a funeral for a hero.
It`s for grieving, not grievances -- Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Adam, do you have a sense if there is, you know, we`re
looking at folks behind you right now. It looks, I mean, obviously,
funerals are somber, but do you have a sense of any tension at this point
or is it really just about gathering and mourning at this point?
REISS: Mostly mourning. The mayor just arrived. The police commissioner
arrived before him. Just a lot of hugs, a lot of emotion, a lot of tears -
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to MSNBC`s Adam Reiss. And I want to bring in
here in New York my panel. Khalil Muhammad, who is director of The
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Amy Goodman, host and
executive producer of Democracy Now. Ed Pawlowski who is mayor of
Allentown, Pennsylvania. And Blair Kelley, associate professor of history
at North Carolina State University. Also joining us from Columbia, South
Carolina, is Marquez Claxton, director of the Black Law Enforcement
Alliance and a retired NYPD detective.
I actually want to start with you, Officer Claxton, because you know,
obviously, all funerals are intensely personal and there`s loss and
grieving, but it does seem to me that maybe there`s some things we should
know about law enforcement officers in the context of funerals that is
distinct. What should we know?
MARQUEZ CLAXTON, DIRECTOR, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: Well, what
you`ll witness is a collective kind of grieving process. It`s traumatic,
and for police officers, each line of duty death, each shooting, each
assassination such as this, really causes them to reflect on their own
personal lives and their families. So it becomes, they tend to internalize
this a lot. And what is also interesting is that you`ll find that if any
in the private sector, if there was a murder on the job of your colleagues,
that there would be grief counselors that kind of rush into the place, and
there would be no expectation that work would go on as usual, but as a
professional police officer, along with dealing with their own mortality,
your own vulnerabilities relating to the families, you still have to do the
work, so it`s really a tremendously sad and sorrowful occasion, and it is
impactful for weeks to come. There will be some emotional impact on all of
the police officers, whether they knew these fine gentlemen or not, there
is an impact and emotional trauma that they`re experiencing.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, there`s this clear kind of emotional trauma for the
city, for these officers, even beyond the city. And yet there`s also the
context in which this is all happening. And I guess part of what I wanted
to ask, you know, so here is the first Chinese American NYPD officer killed
in the line of duty. His partner was Latino, who was laid to rest very
recently. And I wonder, there`s all of this racial discourse happening.
But not much of it is about the fact that these gentlemen are also from
communities of color. Some of whom have also very tense relationships with
urban police departments, both in New York and otherwise. I`m wondering if
this is even a reasonable time to be talking about that. It feels like we
ought to be.
CLAXTON: It`s challenging, I think, for people who are really engaged in
this national discussion about reform, police reform, about the role that
race plays in law enforcement, the policing more specifically. It`s a
challenging time because you really have to balance the sensitivity to the
family, the sensitivity to the city, the police department, along with the
necessity to move forward and engage in these conversations. So it is
challenging, but my answer to you, the short answer, is I think anytime and
all times it`s necessary for us to engage in discussion that moves the
profession forward, that moves law enforcement and in fact the justice
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold on for us just one second. You know, mayor, part of
the reason I wanted you here is because part of this tension is about
police and community. But the other big part of what`s happening here is
the tension between the mayor and the police. And I`m interested in your
role as mayor, here you are, you know, you`re a civilian, but you are over
a police force. You have a responsibility to your voters and constituents
and they also have a responsibility to these communities. Do you have sort
of a sense of where de Blasio might be right now, where his mindset is?
MAYOR ED PAWLOWSKI (D), ALLENTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA: Listen. It`s a tough
road to walk. And then you`re the CEO of a major corporation, okay, and in
my case, multi-millions, and in his case, multi-billions. You have your
employees that you have look out for, and then you`re elected by the
people, right? And so you have to be a leader as well within the community
and be able to express yourself as a leader. And so, it`s a really
interesting line that he`s walking, and it`s tough. I mean, I was in the
same situation back in 2007. We had a situation where we had an officer, a
white officer, responding to a call. Ended up hitting another officer`s
car in the course of that response. The car went up on the sidewalk,
killed a young African-American child.
Lots of tension within the community as a result of that. But you know, in
that particular case, you know, we found out through the investigations
that he was looking at his mobile computer, he wasn`t paying attention to
the road. We had to take corrective action. And so there`s always this
tension that you walk as a mayor, trying to play that role of CEO and also
to, you know, looking out for what`s happening within the community. In
that case, you know, we had almost a near riot that almost erupted. I was
able to call out the clergy and other folks within the community to help
quell that before it actually became an incident. And thankfully, it
never, you know, hit the national papers like what happened in Ferguson.
HARRIS-PERRY: So this idea of the tension, though. Amy, it does feel to
me like that tension of being an elected official, accountable to the
people, who nonetheless has to coordinate and manage a police force, is
exactly what is necessary in the context of democracy. That we don`t have
a military that runs our government because we think the military should
have a civilian person controlling it. And on the domestic side, you know,
our mayor isn`t our police chief. Our mayor hires and fires our police
chiefs. And so I`m wondering, how chilled should we feel about this
tension? Like, is this a kind of healthy democratic tension that we`re
seeing in New York, or should we feel a sense of chill when police officers
turn their back on elected officials who are meant to be their managers?
GOODMAN: Well, it will be interesting to see what happens today. But I do
want to say when you look at the diversity of the New York police force
with something like 28 percent African-American, 24, 26 percent Latino, six
percent Asian, how did it get to be so diverse? I think part of it is
because of the mass protests of previous decades. For example, after the
killing of Amadou Diallo, after the abuse of -- of the -- Abner Louima, who
was abused in a police station. There were so many protests, mass arrests
at police headquarters, that this led to the kind of change that you`re
talking about in Allentown when we look at how we have to change the
department, and de Blasio is saying now we have to have a complete
retraining. And I also think it`s important that police come from the
community. So that they don`t feel like, and by the community and
themselves, and occupying force, that they understand these communities.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with us. We`re going to talk more about this, and also
remember that the funeral for slain New York Detective Wenjian Liu is
expected to begin this hour. New York Mayor de Blasio and Police
Commissioner Bill Bratton are expected to speak. We`ll going to bring you
the latest as events warrant.
Up next, police union versus the mayor 23 years ago. Is history repeating
HARRIS-PERRY: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio may have to contend with the
silent anger of the officers who have turned their back in protest, but he
still had it easier than one of his predecessors faced when the police
wanted to send him a message. This was the scene on September 16th, 1992
when more than 10,000 off duty police officers and their supporters
descended upon New York City`s city hall in a protest against Mayor David
Dinkins. "New York Times" story gave this description of the seen that
day. A handful of people, then hundreds, then thousands broke through
barricades and surged onto city hall steps. From there, the protest
degenerated into a beer swirling, traffic snarling, epithet hurling that
stretches from the Brooklyn Bridge to Murray Street, where a several
politicians helped stoke the emotional fires. The protests would have been
noteworthy even if it had been any rally gone a bit too wild but the
protesters were the police.
The officers were protesting his response to a number of police issues
including a proposal to create a civilian board to investigate police
misconduct, and a visit to the family of a Dominican immigrant who was
killed by an officer to the confrontation that sparked unrest in the
Washington Heights section of New York. Khalil, those images, that
reminder of 1992, which is now much longer ago than I would like to
remember and admit, you know, it made us pause and look through the
history. On the one hand, it`s much safer to be a police officer in the
modern era that it has been before. If we look at `64 to 2014, there`s an
overall secular decline in police officer death, although there`s kind of a
spike in 2001. But most recently, in 2014, you do see an increase of 24
percent in the deaths of police officers. Fifty six percent of those
deaths kind of spike by firearm deaths, which makes me wonder, is the thing
that`s really dangerous here the number of guns that are available on the
MUHAMMAD: Sure. We have a gun culture that we -- is the third wheel of
American politics. So, to the extent that police officers should be the
largest anti-gun lobby in America, taking on the NRA, directly rather than
mayors of cities that are trying to govern all the people and trying to
establish that every individual has a right to be fear of state violence is
the elephant in this conversation. The Dinkins situation, though, I think
is also telling because partly what you see there is a reflection of a
culture of white male privilege, and I don`t want to get stuck on the
privilege question, but I do want to come back to this, that they represent
working class American history.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the police force does not look like that. I mean, as
Amy was pointing out last hour, the images we`re seeing right now, that`s
1992 New York Police Department. As a result of the social movements on
the process as you`ve talked about, the department does not look like that
MUHAMMAD: My point is that, and this is exactly the point. That we have
been caught in a loop for the past 20 years where racial representative
stands in for fundamental change, so that the fact that the force is
blacker or browner or yellower has not changed the culture of policing and
the system that puts it in place. So, the tradeoff for officers and I can
tell you this from personal experience. I have lectured at John Jay as a
guest lecturer, I shave stood before rooms of graduate students and under-
graduates, current officers and soon to be officers who refer to the people
in the communities they police as perps, as people deserving of excessive
force, of people deserving of guilt until proven innocent. In other
words, these are young black and brown people being professionalized in a
college, and yet they have already moved to the other side because the
price of admission, the price of the ticket to participation on that force
is to accept that those people do not have the same right to exist in these
HARRIS-PERRY: Officer Claxton, I feel like I have to let you in on that.
CLAXTON: Yes, it`s interesting because what oftentimes occurs is that the
blacks or Latinos who are integrated into the police departments become
subsumed by the police culture as opposed to their own culture or their
experiences. So what you find is that regardless of the complexion of the
individual officer, if they are following a certain procedure, if they are
following a certain law enforcement or enforcement trend, you will have the
same result. It is important that people relate to those individuals who
serve as police officers. It is also important that police officers are
empathetic to those who they serve. It`s just basic customer service. But
changing the complexion of these departments without the necessary reforms
will be disappointing to many people who are pushing for justice reform.
HARRIS-PERRY: I have to hold you for a second because we want to take you
now live to Brooklyn where New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is speaking at the
funeral for slain police Officer Wenjian Liu.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK: Thank you, Lieutenant. And thank you,
Director Comey for your very moving words. Thank you, Commissioner
Bratton. Thank you to all who have gathered here to remember this good man
and support this good family. All of our city is heartbroken today. We
have seen it over these last two weeks. We have seen the pain that people
feel from all walks of life. A sense of appreciation for the sacrifices of
this family and of the Ramos family that are understanding people who have
never worn a uniform of how many dangers our men and women in uniform face
and what it means for their families. All of the city is feeling the pain
right now, and all of the city wants to lift up the Liu family and the
Ramos family, and always remember their sacrifice. Detective Wenjian Liu
was a good man. He walked a path of courage, a path of sacrifice. And a
path of kindness. This is who he was. And it was taken from us much too
Our hearts go out to his wife Pei Xia Chen who married him just months
before his cruel loss. To his father Wei Tang Liu and his mother Xiu Yan
Li who have suffered the unimaginable pain of losing their only child. And
to all the men and women of the New York City Police Department who served
alongside Detective Liu these past seven years, they were his second
family. And that family has lost a beloved brother. For a mayor, there`s
no more solemn ceremony than this, mourning a man whose life was taken
while fighting for all that is decent and good. We meet a family that has
lost so much in the hospital or in their home or here at a funeral. It`s a
reminder of what is done by good people to keep others safe and to hold our
society together. And just how great the dangers are. When I met
Detective Liu`s family and learned more about his brave and selfless
journey, I came away with a sad realization that we had lost a man who
embodied or city`s most cherished values.
We lost in Detective Liu and we lost in Detective Ramos the very best of
us, everything that we as New Yorkers aspire to be. We lost two
individuals who were showing us the way. Detective Liu`s story is such a
powerful American story, such a classic New York story. A young man who
came here from China with his parents at the age of 12. In search of the
American dream, in search of the dream that generations have come to New
York to find. Ours is a city as proud of the Statue of Liberty, we`re
proud of the great lady still holds the torch of freedom aloft in the
harbor. We`re proud because of what it means. A promise that no matter
where people have come from, no matter what troubles they have left behind,
here they can lead lives full of hope and possibility. And the Liu family
took New York up on that great promise. While Detective Liu`s father
labored long hours in the garment industry, Detective Liu studied hard in
our New York City`s public schools.
He learned English, he prepared himself for college. Detective Liu`s dream
was clear and it was a noble one, to don the blue uniform, to pin on the
badge, and to dedicate himself to protecting and serving the city he loved.
Detective Liu`s life resolved around his family, the family he was born
into and his second family, the NYPD. And he took occasional weekends off
for something he loved, fishing with his friends. He loved to fish, he
loved to fish here on the city or on Long Island or upstate. It brought
him joy. Every day of fishing was a good day. But it says something
important about Detective Liu, that his happiest days were when he caught a
big haul of fish and he could share with his aunts, his uncles, his
cousins. He could cook some for his wife and his parents. And the joy
that fishing brought him, we saw how he approached his whole life, his
greatest meaning, his greatest joy came in sharing with others, came in
caring for others, helping, supporting, devoting himself to something
greater than himself.
Detective Liu is deeply devoted to his mother and father. A devotion that
Confucius said powerfully was, quote, "the root of a man`s character." In
high school, Detective Liu always stopped playing basketball with his
friends early so he could go home, he could buy groceries, he could cook
dinner for his father and his mother. As his parents grew older, he helped
in more and more ways. One of his proudest moments was the day he bought a
house for his father and mother and began paying the mortgage. So he knew
they would be secure in their old age. Detective Liu was filled with joy
when Pei Xia Chen entered his life. It was all the more joyful when they
married. He was looking forward to building a wonderful life with her.
When he joined the NYPD, he knew his family would worry about him. And he
wanted to make sure they knew he was always thinking of them, so he did one
of those caring acts, simple act that was so typical of all the good in
him. At the end of every work day, every day, he called his father to tell
him, tell the family that he was safe and that he was on his way home.
Detective Liu was a brave and skilled police officer, but he was also a
kind man, a kind officer, someone who gave of himself. And this is the
word that so many in his family, so many of his friends, so many of his
colleagues were quick to use. They said he was kind. He wanted to help
others. And everything he did. The thing about Detective Liu, one of his
partners on the force recalled is that he was always, quote, "more worried
about other people than he was about himself." He showed this kindness in
so many ways, large and small.
Detective Liu was the sort of officer who when he saw someone on the street
lost, he`d go over to them, he`d ask if they were hungry. He would
literally buy them dinner at McDonald`s and give them a ride home. His
partner recalled going out one day with Detective Liu on what our police
call a lift. A routine visit to help an older person who has fallen and
cannot get up. The officers arrived at the old man`s home, lifted him up,
put him in a chair, and at that point, their job was officially done. But
Detective Liu was not ready to leave. The man he came to help was an army
veteran who had served in Vietnam. And he was lonely and he wanted to talk
about his life. He wanted to talk about his younger days as a pilot.
Detective Liu sensed this, so he poured the man a soda, and the officers
sat down and they listened to the man`s war stories and they looked at his
faded photographs. After a long time listening, Detective Liu knew it
still wasn`t time to leave yet.
The officers helped the man to his bedroom and they gently placed him in
his bed. And then Detective Liu said to his partner, let`s put blankets on
him. And the two young police officers wrapped the old man in blankets.
Detective Liu`s partner never forgot that day. He never forgot that what
could have been a routine by the book lift was transformed into a moment of
profound humanity and kindness and decency. His partner said of that
visit, even though I was the senior one, I learned a lot from him. That
was Detective Liu`s way, lifting people up in every sense. Wrapping them
in kindness. And teaching others by his example. Detective Liu lifted all
of us up. In the too brief time we were fortunate enough to have him with
us. And New York City stands a little taller today because he walked among
us. The Buddha imparted a simple lesson to his followers. Resolutely
train yourself to attain peace, he said. That was how Detective Liu lived
That was how Detective Ramos lived his life. We all should be worthy of
them. We all should take their example to heart. We all should live lives
as good as them. This city welcomed Detective Liu. New York has been from
its earliest days the most tolerant of cities. A place where people of
diverse backgrounds and occupations and races and creeds have lived
together in harmony. But there have always been times when that harmony
has been challenged. And the last few weeks have been one of those times.
As we start a new year, a year we`re entering with hearts that are doubly
heavy from the loss of Detective Liu and the loss of Detective Ramos, let
us rededicate ourselves to those great New York traditions of mutual
understanding and living in harmony. Let us move forward by strengthening
the bonds that unite us. And let us work together to attain peace. Thank
you, and God bless you.
HARRIS-PERRY: That was New York Mayor Bill de Blasio remembering at the
funeral ceremonies for the slain officer Wenjian Liu, who is being laid to
rest. You heard there extraordinary stories about Officer Liu, about the
ways in which he and now we`re going to hear -- I`m sorry, I need to take
you back to the services in Brooklyn where New York Police Commissioner
Bill Bratton is speaking at the funeral for slain police Officer Wenjian
BILL BRATTON, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: Director of the FBI Mr. Comey,
Mayor de Blasio, Senator Schumer, the many elected officials from both the
national, state, and local government, and to the thousands upon thousands
of police officers lined up in the rain on this very gray morning outside
this funeral home, thank you all for being here to honor this great man and
in honoring him, to honor his family. Police officer Wenjian Liu believed
in possibility. Like his partner that day, that fateful day two weeks ago,
Rafael Ramos, his partner now for all time, Officer Liu believed in the
possibility of making a safer world. All cops do. It`s why we do what we
do. It`s why we run towards danger when others run away. We believe in
the possibility of keeping disorder controlled. We believe in the
possibility of a city free from fear. Over the last 22 years in this city,
the men and women of this department, the NYPD, have made those
possibilities reality for millions upon millions of our citizens.
I knew I wanted to be a cop since my early childhood. Detective Liu and
Ramos both heard the call much later in life. But the pull was just as
strong. Because we all believe in the possibility of being part of
something larger than ourselves. Officer Liu left China when he was 12.
His parents Wei Tang Liu and Xiu Yan Li found work and worked hard. And he
worked hard, too. He helped them when he could. He studied hard at
school. He called himself Joe. For a while, he was on the path to
becoming an accountant, but 9/11 changed those plans. As it changed so
many things for so many of us. Some people witnessed that horrible day and
were paralyzed. Detective Liu witnessed it and saw the possibility of
service. A possibility of being part of something that would help others.
For 170 years, immigrants to this city have found a home in the NYPD, like
Detective Liu and Detective Ramos. To help others, to have a life of
significance. Only the homelands have changed over time.
First, it was the Irish. Then the Italians. Like Lieutenant Pet Racino
(ph) who called himself Joe, too. He was murdered by the mafia while on
assignment in Italy, and now our cops are from everywhere. The NYPD looks
a lot more like the city it serves than some people think. More than half
of our members call New York City home, and live within its five boroughs,
just like Detective Liu and Detective Ramos. And our heroes are from
everywhere, too. Like Asian Bond James, an immigrant who was murdered with
his partner -- in 2003. Like Eugene Maslik (ph) who fled the war in
Chechnya and was murdered with his partner, too Nicolas Picolo (ph) in
2007. These men and now thousands of women, come to follow the American
dream in the NYPD. They come to this greatest of cities and join this
greatest of police departments. Because it represents what they came here
for. Everyone who comes here is from some place where opportunity is more
rare, some place where fear is more common, some place less free.
And if you come from such a place, is it any wonder you would want to join
the profession that helps make America so different? Because without
public safety, there is no possibility of free government. Everything that
our government, our way of life promises, freedom of speech, freedom of
worship, freedom from wants, freedom from fear, everything starts with
public safety. It starts with us. Detective Liu believed this. He joined
the NYPD first as an auxiliary officer, an unpaid volunteer with no gun,
just a uniform and a badge, and a belief that it`s possible to make a
difference. The belief that public safety is everyone`s responsibility.
When two of his auxiliary brothers were murdered by a madman in Greenwich
Village, he could have turned away. He could have said it wasn`t worth it.
Instead, four months later, he took the oath to become a New York City
For seven years, he kept the streets of Brooklyn safe. First in
Brownsville, and then in downtown Brooklyn. For seven years he sought out
the suffering, the disturbed, the injured, and tried to bring them comfort.
You have heard the mayor`s story, the lift. Reminded me so much of my time
as a young police officer in Boston. We called it the same thing, a lift
job. And I can remember hearing the mayor talk about it, about the
different times we would go to help the elderly. Oftentimes, who were
really just lonely. They needed a reason to call us. They needed someone
to talk with. And I can still remember myself and my partner, Henry
Borlough (ph), going on those lift jobs and having some of the same
experiences that Detective Liu had. Detective Liu is the police that we
want. But it`s also in this city and in this country the police that we
have. And for that and for how he died, but for how he lived and performed
his duty, for that I am so honored as has already been referenced to
posthumously promote, Detective First Grade Liu.
But as amazing as his story, his refusal to be dissuaded or daunted, his
dedication is hardly unique. After all, it`s what cops do. In the days
after Detective Liu and Ramos were assassinated, murdered for their color,
slain because they were blue, I visited their families and learned what
profoundly good men they were. And I found myself wondering, why do we
always lose the good ones? But then I realized, it`s the law of averages.
Almost all of them are the good ones. Very few are not. Our cops are
people just like Detective Liu and Detective Ramos. They, too, share a
belief in what`s possible and a desire to serve. Detective Liu led a
responsible, compassionate life. He loved his wife, his longtime
sweetheart, but only just married. Just starting out. As the mayor
referenced, he cooked for his parents. Made a great soup, I`m told. He
knew how to buy a good vegetable. He enjoyed simple things, an average
fisherman who loved to show off his catches to his friends and share with
them and his family.
He loved his family and they certainly loved him, as we see from so many
who have come from so far away to be here today. At the end of every tour,
as the mayor also referenced, he would call his father to let him know he
was safe. At the end of every tour but one. He had wisdom and ethics, and
humanity. On a department`s web site, people who worked with him have been
writing remembrances. They all recount his happiness, his humor, his
outlook, his righteous intentions. Those comments and in the words of
friends as well as the clear example of him choosing to be a cop, have seen
proof of his ethical conduct. I have seen it in the stories of his speech
and action, and to the livelihood that he chose. He was persistent in his
efforts and mindful of his obligations. He was patient. He shared his
culture, a culture he was so proud of. He was, after all, a good man. A
humane man. He was a New York City cop. And he knew what all cops know.
He knew how hard the job can be. Every day, we face problems that would
require days of deliberation in a judge`s chambers, and we have but an
instant to decide what action to take.
As every day we face people who need help or people who are hurting. And
we help them. We answer 4.5 radio runs a year in the city. Nearly 400,000
arrests. And for good or ill, only a tiny handful make the news. In the
millions, literally millions of the rest go unnoticed. We do this because
we took an oath. We do this because we believe in possibility. This is
what we signed up for. The possibility of helping people. Of helping
others. The possibility of making a safer, purer city. To Detective Liu
and Detective Ramos` brothers and sisters in blue, the thousands of you who
are lined up on those rainy streets outside, I am so proud of you. Proud
of you for making those possibilities a reality for so many in the city.
Even after 44 years, I am still so proud to be one of you. We`re cops. We
hold the line. The thin blue line. We don`t quit when things are hard.
Because when aren`t they? We took this job to prevent crime and disorder.
Over the past 22 years, this department has reminded the world of how
that`s done and how it can be done.
The mission has not changed. The belief in possibility has not changed.
And the much larger part of this city or this country, a much larger part
than you think is proud than you think is proud of you too. There are
people who need us. We will not abandon them. To do so would be to
dishonor the memories of Detective Liu and Detective Ramos. It would
dishonor the others killed with their partners. A lot of those partners
were as different as Detective Liu and Ramos. Different races, different
upbringings. Different languages. Because every police car holds a little
bit of this city. More than 130 officers have been killed in the line of
duty in New York City in the last 45 years. And it would dishonor them,
too. So we cannot falter. We cannot flag. We will move forward. For we
carry the possibility of all those dead and all those who have worn the
uniform before us. It`s the possibility of making a better world. And
it`s impossible to let their sacrifices and their efforts be in vain.
But today, we say farewell to Detective First Grade Liu, as we said
farewell to Detective First Grade Ramos last week. We thank the Liu family
for sharing him with us. As their guests, we mourn with them. We take
comfort in the Buddha`s words that even when death comes, the lessons of
goodness do not perish. And as cops, we celebrate his life and that of
Detective Ramos in honor of what they accomplished for so many. Above the
coffin is this beautiful calligraphy. Some of the words are so
representative of Officer Liu and his partner, Detective Ramos. In the
sphere of law enforcement, his vision is left unrealized. It`s up to us to
make his vision a reality. For their service to the people, their names
will be forever cherished in our hearts. And finally, Detective Liu, a
model for all police.
HARRIS-PERRY: That was NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton speaking. And
joining me now, MSNBC reporter Adam Reiss. Adam, what response did you see
from officers to the mayor`s remarks?
REISS: Well, Melissa, while the mayor spoke, he spoke about what a great
American story Officer Liu`s story is, it`s a true New York story, a
devoted son and how he was really all about America. Well, while he was
talking, we saw large pockets of officers turn their backs. Not just a
few, not just a few dozen. Large pockets. Possibly hundreds turning their
backs right next to us here in front of the funeral home. Now, we`re
waiting to hear from Officer Liu`s father and his wife -- Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Adam Reiss in Brooklyn. Also thank you to
Marquez Claxton in Columbia, South Carolina who joined us earlier in this
program. We`re going to be right back.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back. We`ve been watching together as a group the
funeral of the slain officer here in New York, Officer Liu, and obviously,
heard some kind of extraordinary stories about him as the mayor and the
police chief were reflecting on him. Just your thoughts.
PAWLOWSKI: You know, listen, we have great officers, and we forget that in
the course of this conversation, that these guys put their lives on the
line every single day. They have no clue what they`re walking into in any
situation, and there are lots of good officers out there that are doing
extraordinary things every day protecting us. And it`s this dichotomy that
we walk in as we talk about this discussion, but you know, none of this as
we talk about this whole issue should surprise us, because we have shifted
our whole policy discussion over the course of the last decade. You know,
we used to be in 1990s up to 2000, we used to focus on community policing,
officers integrating into the community, getting to know their communities.
There was federal funding for it. The weed and seed program, all that
changed. 9/11 changed that.
And we went through this whole anti-terrorism approach, and all of our
funding changes. We went to a more militarized, you know, police force.
So none of this should surprise us that we`ve changed this national
discussion, policy wise, and we have put our officers into very unique
circumstances now from, hey, you should be working with your communities,
understanding the people that you`re serving, and just like Officer Liu was
to, hey, we want you to also be this, you know, this paramilitary force
HARRIS-PERRY: And maybe -- especially for the NYPD where they are in
domestic police force doing work like we heard there. Officer Liu doing
the lift. We don`t think of that as police work. But there he is right,
doing the lift, helping someone in their home.
HARRIS-PERRY: On the other hand, he could be faced with needing to respond
to a potential terrorist attack because it`s New York.
PAWLOWSKI: And there is many, many, many, many officers who are out there
who are doing great things within their neighborhoods. Who are taking the
extra step to understand the communities that they serve and reach out? We
have a program in our town called blocks versus cops where actually we have
our police officers actually played basketball in different blocks around
the city just to get to interact with the kids. And to know those kids,
and that`s what, you know, we have to start that discussion and we have to
change, you know, the course of what you`re talking about. The whole
course of how we, you know, it`s not just changing the composure of the
Police Department, it`s changing how the Police Department acts.
HARRIS-PERRY: And what those incentives are. Thank you to Khalil Muhammad
and to Amy Goodman and to Ed Pawlowski and to Blair Kelley. Up next,
advice from a young activist.
HARRIS-PERRY: Given that many of the victims of recent police in any
events are young people, how should we talk to the children whose live
could be affected?
Well, let`s ask a young activists. Joining me now from St. Louis Missouri
is Marquis Govan who is a 11-year-old student at Loyola Academy in St.
Louis. Marquis, what do you think adults should be saying to kids in this
moment as you`re dealing with these difficult issues?
MARQUIS GOVAN, STUDENT, LOYOLA ACADEMY, ST. LOUIS: Well, I think most
likely depends on the child`s race. Because there are different
discussions happening with black children are told that they might be
racially profiled. White children are just told what is going to be going
on. And I see white children as having two different sided kind of debate.
Because when polling people are like, oh, race is the same. With white
people, with the polling it`s the same or it`s different and it`s getting
worse or it`s getting divided except the majority is saying that it`s okay
which is a problem. So, it depends on how they want to express themselves
to their children.
HARRIS-PERRY: Do you think your generation will do better than my
generation did at solving questions of racism in America?
GOVAN: Yes. I think they`re actually more activated. And they are more
alarmed. And they are ready to do anything basically to get this problem
solved. They`re ready to get it off the table and make sure that everybody
HARRIS-PERRY: What do you think every adult should hear from kids? What
should we be quite and listen to you all say?
GOVAN: I believe it`s time to say that let`s knock off the old school kind
of thing. This is a new kind of generation now. There needs to be, I
think what basically what I`m trying to tell people is that there is a
comic problems facing our country or educational problems facing our
country, there are racial injustices facing our countries and I think they
need to be solved immediately and they need to stop being beat, they need
to stop being ignored. They should no longer be ignored by our elected
officials and by the adults. Thank you, our parents.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Marquis Govan in St. Louis, Missouri. What you
just said is there`s a fierce urgency of now. And I appreciate you joining
us on the show. And that is our show for today.
GOVAN: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you at home for watching. I`ll see you again next
Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Coming up right now, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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