Merkley Statement on Ferguson, MO

Today Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement on the recent events in Ferguson, MO:

I am deeply disturbed by the recent events in Ferguson, MO, which has become a tragic reminder of how many divisions remain in our nation and the work we still have ahead of us to bring about meaningful change in our communities and attitudes. While we have undoubtedly come a long way in the decades since the struggle for civil rights, moments like the one in Ferguson make it clear that old divisions can give way to new conflicts.

From its beginning, the crisis in Ferguson spoke to some of America’s deepest wounds and unsettled tensions when an unarmed African American teen was killed by a police officer. The shooting and resulting confrontations between protestors and an overly armed police force have illustrated just how fragile the relationships between law enforcement and the communities they are charged with protecting can be. Minority members of our communities deserve fair and respectful treatment from law enforcement officials. Harassment and brutality have no place in our society and these interactions must end.

We also need to take a hard look in the mirror in light of the response to the protests. The United States must never be treated like a police state and peaceful demonstration is a defining characteristic at the core of our democracy, but that right, like all others, must be exercised responsibly and without malice. There is no place for vandalism or physical attacks on law enforcement, but there is also something severely wrong when Americans in a town like Ferguson are squaring off against up-armored military-style vehicles, teargas and .50 caliber machine guns. 

Lost in all of the action seems to be the problem at the root of the whole crisis: the need to build a better understanding between police and the public and resolve the racial divide and discrimination that persist in our society. Ferguson and the nation need to confront the problems that have been laid bare, it is my hope that we can move forward in a meaningful and constructive way toward a better understanding of who we are and want to be as nation and how we relate to each other as human beings. My wife Mary and I will keep Michael Brown’s family in our thoughts and prayers and we hope for a peaceful and healing resolution to the tensions and divisions that have been exposed by this regrettable incident.