On NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, Al Sharpton accused President Obama of politicizing Ferguson and giving white police officers an easy escape route.
We, in terms of those that are talking to the family and lawyers involved in these cases, don't need the president to politicize it and give an escape from the criminal justice system from those that need to be investigated and possibly brought into the criminal justice system. So, a lot of people talking are not talking to the victims, who don't need their rights violated by politics.
Sharpton criticized Obama for politicizing the case (not that Sharpton would ever do that) by focusing on the process, not the rights of the victims. He said he has been in the game long enough to recognize when a tragedy is being politicized:
I think the president, by addressing it twice while he was on vacation, not a statement but coming out live, and yet not compromising the right of the family -- because where I was nervous -- because I've been in this a while. I'm not a studio activist or someone in an ivory tower, I've been in this. For the president to go further, then it would be used in a legal context to say, "Oh, the president ordered the indictment," rather than let the process go fairly. But the president governing and saying we've got to deal -- I'm reading this morning -- saying we've got to deal with military equipment and expenditures on citizens.
Sharpton said the shooting of a young black man by a white cop in Ferguson, Mo., must be turned into a movement. The MSNBC talk show host demanded federal legislation to the facilitate change to the criminal justice system -- and how it handles "aggressive policing of low-level crimes."
After the shooting of Michael Brown, peaceful protests led to violence and looting within the city. Sharpton was contacted by Brown's grandfather to come to Ferguson, which he did, calling for an end to the violence and a "fair investigation." MTP's guest host Chris Jansing asked Sharpton what could be said to continue the calm that has descended on the Ferguson community of late:
I think that what we can say is that we must turn this moment into a movement to really deal with the underlying issue of police accountability and what is and is not allowable by police and what citizens ought to be moving toward. I think that we need to deal with how we move towards solutions, how we deal with the whole aggressive policing of what is considered low level crimes. And that goes from Ferguson to Staten Island, New York, L.A. We see this occurring all over the country, and I think we need to move in that way. Otherwise we will end up only repeating ourselves every incident.
Jansing reminded Sharpton that he had predicted that the Trayvon Martin case was to be the start of a "movement" as well and wanted to know what it's going to take for one to really begin. Sharpton replied:
I think it's going to take legislation. Our demonstrations must lead to legislation. We need federal legislation and we need the criminal justice system, which is why the federal government coming in is so important.
Sharpton mentioned Attorney General Eric Holder's "unprecedented" trip to Ferguson as also helping to "lead to real change." He deemed it an historic event. Something, as he explains, Bobby Kennedy did not do during the civil rights era. But for Sharpton, this time is different. "Our chance must lead to change," he said. "Change takes time."
The conversation turned to Sharpton's relationship with the White House, with Jansing implying that he is "sort of a surrogate" there. Sharpton quickly corrected that assertion, explaining that he is not a surrogate but, comparing himself to Frederick Douglass, following the traditional path of leaders consulting with presidents:
I have access to the White House in every area. Going back to Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, presidents talk to those that were leading at the time… that's nothing unusual. It is a customary, traditional role.
In the last few moment of the segment, Jansing asked, "What would be justice in this case?" Sharpton concluded:
Justice is a fair and impartial investigation. And let the facts go where they need to go. Too often with local prosecutors, we don't get that.
On Monday, Sharpton will deliver the eulogy for Michael Brown's funeral.