Elected and former officials of both parties on Thursday condemned the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, including President Obama, who tweeted "violence against police is unacceptable." But some Republicans in the wake of Wednesday night's episode placed their focus on the dangers faced by law enforcement since the shooting death last summer of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson and the weeks of protest it unleashed.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani went as far to say that Wilson should be “commended” for doing his job that August day while suggesting demonstrators were to blame for the shootings that took place in Ferguson following a rally observing the resignation of the city's police chief, Tom Jackson. Giuliani, who sought the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, told Fox News the two police officers who were shot “weren’t there because they wanted to be there, they were there because people were rioting.”
Giuliani said the violence had been the result of an “atmosphere of unbalance,” partially attributable, he argued, to a recent, scathing Department of Justice report accusing the Ferguson police force of widespread racial bias against the city’s African-American population. He claimed that report was merely an “allegation.” A St. Louis County grand jury in November decided that it would not indict Wilson. The Department of Justice decided earlier this month that Wilson did not violate federal civil rights laws in the shooting.
Similarly, Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said in a statement that police did not overreact following the shooting death of Brown despite what critics had alleged.
“I think the irresponsible discussion that began last year of the so-called ‘militarization’ of police was almost totally fact-free,” said Blunt. He added, “The police are trying to get home to their families alive. They have a hard job to do, protecting people and protecting protesters. Clearly, the protesters themselves were very near where the police were shot last night, and we should be concerned about that fact.”
Witnesses told a number of news organizations, including msnbc, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal that the shots did not come directly from those gathered at they rally but from several yards away on a distant hill. No arrests have been made so far, although investigators have taken in people for questioning.
Attorney General Eric Holder, meanwhile, condemned the police shootings, saying “What happened last night was a pure ambush. This was not someone trying to bring healing to Ferguson. This was a damn punk who was trying to sow discord.” Earlier in the day, Holder said the shooting threatens “the very reforms that nonviolent protesters in Ferguson and around the country have been working towards for the past several months.”
Nonetheless, several commentators on the right have argued Holder may have sparked the most recent shootings with the latest DOJ report and comments suggesting he wouldn’t rule out dismantling the Ferguson police force.
“Fox and Friends” host Elizabeth Hasselbeck argued Holder was adding “fuel to the fire. Less than a week later, we are seeing the dots connected here.” Similarly, Fox News host Andrea Tantaros insisted the Obama administration was partly to blame for the Ferguson violence. “You think It was a coincidence that two cops got shot last night? You think that it was just a random occurrence? This was inflamed because of what the administration did," she said.
Other lawmakers issued statements urging calm, reform and healing.
Obama delivered his first public statement on the violence via Twitter. “Violence against police is unacceptable. Our prayers are with the officers in MO. Path to justice is one all of us must travel together," he wrote, signing the tweet "-bo." The White House has said that signature on a tweet means it was written by the president himself.
Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri said, "This shooting is a criminal act that jeopardized the lives of police officers and protesters both. I hope the officers have a full recovery and pray for them and their families. It's time for healing and reform, and acts of violence have no place in this process."
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon urged anyone with information about the shooting to step forward. The Democrat said, "My thoughts and prayers go out to these brave officers and their families. Each day, our law enforcement officers risk their lives to protect the public and the fact that these officers appear to have been intentionally targeted is deeply troubling.”
Late Thursday, Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia chimed in on Twitter with three, successive tweets condemning the shootings and encouraging nonviolence.
And Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, who is chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said, "The CBC understands the frustrations in Ferguson, but a response of violence is not the answer during this transformative moment in our country. Ferguson weighs heavily on our minds, and we must work together constructively to address the disparities in the criminal justice system across the country. We call for calm in the city of Ferguson following months of unrest and tension."
The two wounded officers were released from the hospital on Thursday morning.