Though much the political world stayed out of developments in Ferguson in the immediate aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting, that relative silence changed quickly overnight following the violence in the St. Louis suburbs and the police’s handling of journalists covering the story.
In addition to President Obama’s public remarks, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) also issued a statement, which read in part, “I strongly support a full and thorough investigation of the events surrounding his death, and subsequent actions, including the detention of journalists covering this heartbreaking situation.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) reminded us, “This is America, not a war zone.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote an op-ed that struck a variety of compelling notes, aside from his willingness to blame “big government.” Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a legendary figure and veteran of the civil-rights movement, said in a statement, “It is not 1940 or 1950 in America, but today it is hard to see the difference.”
But perhaps no political figure has been quite as active today as Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) of Missouri, a prosecutor before her Senate career, started the day with a rather powerful written statement.
“We need to de-militarize this situation – this kind of response by the police has become the problem instead of the solution. I obviously respect law enforcement’s work to provide public safety, but my constituents are allowed to have peaceful protests, and the police need to respect that right and protect that right. Today is going to be a new start, we can and need to do better.”
This was soon followed by discussions with Justice Department officials, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; then a church service (where she reportedly received a standing ovation); then a visit to Ferguson to meet directly with protesters, where the Democratic senator said the police response “escalated the situation” and had become “more of the problem” than the solution.
And this came against the backdrop of a press conference, where McCaskill said something important.
The full video is below, but note the way in which she described her relationship with the people of Ferguson. “I work for them,” she said. “I want to make sure they have the space, the safety, the respect that they deserve as law-abiding citizens of this community, or any community, to protest.”