As outrage over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed teen in Ferguson, MO, has spread across the country — significant criticism has been leveled at the individual police officer who shot him and at they way his colleagues are treating protesters and journalists attempting to cover the story.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) has also borne significant criticism for his delayed response to the situation. State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal held a photo of Nixon’s head at a Monday protest, with the words “M.I.A. Again!” written over his forehead. One Missouri statehouse reporter tweeted on Wednesday that “The Where Is Jay Nixon? meme is not new (frequent critique of lawmakers), but gaining new momentum in Ferguson situation.”
Missouri elected officials of both parties have made statements of sympathy and called for investigation, but have done little to quell the violence:
Gov. Jay Nixon (D): On Tuesday, Nixon urged civic and faith leaders in North St. Louis County to “have patience for the investigation that is now underway, but be unwavering in our insistence that it be open, thorough and fair,” “keep the peace, while remaining uncompromising in our expectation that justice must not simply be pursued, but achieved,” and “express the anger and frustration that we rightfully feel in a way that respects the living, and honors the memory of the young man we mourn.” A day later, took to Twitter to announce that he was cancelling all planned appearances to visit North St. Louis County on Thursday. He asked for calm urged law enforcement to “respect rights of residents & press,” adding, “Situation in Ferguson does not represent who we are. Must keep the peace, while safeguarding rights of citizens and the press.”
According to Bloomberg reports on Twitter early Thursday, Nixon also said he may relieve the St. Louis County police of their duties in Ferguson.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R): In a press release on Monday, Blunt grieved the “tragic loss” of Ferguson and urged a full investigation: “Everyone deserves a transparent understanding of what happened here. I am fully supportive of County Executive Charlie Dooley and St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar calling for DOJ and the FBI to take a careful, open review of the events that led to this tragedy for everyone involved.” Blunt defended local law enforcement’s subsequent actions on Wednesday, saying that “the people around the country that I talk to, the Chief of Police in St. Louis County, John Belmar, is at the top of the list in terms of expertise and his preparation,” and “I’m just really in no position to analyze, not having been there, what the police did or why they did it after the event but I do know they’ve had several days of trouble they’ve had to try to deal with in the best possible way.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D): On Monday, McCaskill released a statement saying, “As a mother, I grieve for this child and his family. I pray that the wonderful, hardworking, and God-loving people of Ferguson will find peace and patience as we wait for the results of what will be numerous and thorough investigations of what happened. I, like so many other Missourians, will not be satisfied until we have a complete and transparent understanding of all the facts and circumstances that led to this young man’s death.” Wednesday, following a call with the Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice, she said “As we continue to grieve for Michael and his family, I’m working to make sure the federal piece of this investigation is fair, transparent, and moving forward without delay. As it proceeds, I’ll be remaining in close touch with the Department of Justice, and am reaching out personally to local elected officials and religious leaders, to keep monitoring the painful events on the ground in Ferguson.”
Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr. (D): Clay, whose 1st District includes Ferguson, joined with Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH) on Monday to request that the Department of Justice not only investigate the “the facts of the specific incident” of Brown’s shooting but also “the potential for any pattern or practice of police misconduct by the Ferguson Police Department.” They argueed that “the St. Louis County Police Department may not be the most objective or credible body to investigate civil rights matters involving law enforcement given evidence of racial profiling by that department in the recent past.”
Rep. Ann Wagner (R): Wagner, whose 2nd District neighbors Clay’s district in the western St. Louis suburbs, put out a statement on Monday saying, “As a mother of three children, I cannot even imagine the pain of losing a child. My thoughts and prayers go out to Michael Brown’s family and to the people of Ferguson as they deal with this tragic loss.” She urged citizens to “remain calm and compassionate while truth and justice are served.”
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster (D): Koster tweeted on Sunday that he was “[k]eeping Michael Brown’s family in my thoughts and prayers, and all those involved in yesterday’s sad news.” Tuesday, he endorsed Nixon’s “call for a thorough, independent investigation by the United States Department of Justice of the circumstances leading to the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson,” and Wednesday, his office said had been to Ferguson, “meeting with African-American leaders, visiting command center, viewing protest area” and would remain in St. Louis on Thursday.
McCaskill said Thursday that “we need to de-militarize this situation,” calling the police response so far “the problem instead of the solution.”