Rolling out spoke exclusively to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter at the Democratic National Committee meeting in Atlanta. Nutter spoke at length on Ferguson, Missouri, Michael Brown and issues confronting the inner city and law enforcement.
Mayor Nutter what was your reaction to the Michael Brown shooting and the ongoing disturbances in Ferguson?
First and foremost, the city of Ferguson and the mother of Michael Brown, and I think all perspective on this issue has to stay centered on this fact, that a young man lost his life and a mother lost her son. We do not exactly know what happened or why it happened; but we know a young man was killed in the streets at the hands of law enforcement. Other than the video of that, we have seen around, we do not know what happened before, but, again, we do know that he was killed.
In regards to the disturbances and rioting it was frankly horrifying. I was not there so I am not trying to prejudge or second-guess the decisions that were being made. However, I have to tell you, when you look at events on the news from around the world, the Middle East, Gaza, what is going on in Iraq and what is happening in those cities. Now to see in the same broadcast tear gas and rubber bullets being shot in Ferguson, Missouri in the United States is a very frightening prospect.
There was no apparent weapon involved and to our knowledge no weapon recovered and sketchy at best information about any engagement between Michael Brown and Ofc. Wilson. There are varieties of stories and versions and to my understanding, the grand jury may start to take testimony and evidence. So hopefully that will bring to light more information. However, I think that the larger issue that has now led to a series of days and nights of violence and confrontation which hopefully, if my latest information is accurate, things have quieted down. But in more recent times the state police are involved, the National Guard involved and a series of leaders are up there; but I think that the defining moment was Pres. Obama addressing this issue earlier in the week, and subsequently the next day Eric Holder went to Ferguson, Missouri to talk to the people, to law enforcement and to demonstrate his commitment as chief law-enforcement officer of the United States.
People have a right to protest. But as an elected official and mayor of Philadelphia, we are always trying to discourage violence, property damage, looting, setting places on fire and burning down the town as a sign or an expression of anger, frustration or protest. So there is a balance here, the right of the people to peaceably assemble to address their grievances to their government and the responsibility of the government to provide for everyone’s safety and security whether they are protesting or not. There is a way to go about putting forward your grievances, putting forward your frustrations, even in peaceful protest. You get a permit to let people know what you are doing. You march, demonstrate, then it is recorded with everyone and the police have to protect and facilitate your efforts.
The third issue here is the violence that black men and boys of color, in general, experience all across the United States. We start with the fact that 6 percent of the country’s population is young African-American men, yet they are 40 to 43 percent of the homicide victims of the United States. Violence disproportionately affects the African-American community, especially black men and boys beyond any other group of people in the United States. We have to address the issue of violence. We also have to address issue of jobs, education, health care, disparities and returning citizens who have been previously incarcerated now coming back into civic society.
How do they get their jobs? How do they get driver’s licenses? How do they get housing and in many instances the educational services that they need? Many are high school dropouts or have not done that well in school and have literacy challenges as well as a number of other issues.