The Charles Barkley “rioters scumbags” comment comes down on the side of the Ferguson grand jury in their decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson.
Charles Barkley made his comments known during a radio interview in Philadelphia, according to the New York Daily News. The pro-basketball analyst has a career on and off the court marked by controversy. This time though, it’s pretty clear on what side of the court he stands.
This is the first time that he called the rioters scumbags, but he has often gone against the grain on race issues, finding himself on the opposite side from today’s black civil rights leaders on issues like education, crime, and the black family.
While the Barkley rioters scumbags has been made public, he also supported the jury decision in the George Zimmerman case of the shooting of Trayvon Martin, raising the hackles of just about every black leader in America. About Ferguson, the voluble Barkely pulled no punches. He was asked about why “black America” doesn’t trust the Ferguson ruling.
“The true story came out from the grand jury testimony … key forensic evidence, and several black witnesses that supported Officer Darren Wilson’s story. I can’t believe anything I hear on television anymore. And, that’s why I don’t like talking about race issues with the media anymore, because they [the media] love this stuff, and lead people to jump to conclusions. The media shouldn’t do that. They never do that when black people kill each other.”
Barkley also said that there is no excuse for people to be burning down people’s businesses or burning down police cars, according to The Examiner. And in a marked departure from other prominent black leaders who have questioned tactics used by officers and, in some cases, accused officers of racial profiling and outright racism, Barkley supported police officers, especially those who work in black neighborhoods.
“[W]e have to be really careful with the cops, because if it wasn’t for the cops we would be living in the Wild, Wild West in our neighborhoods. We can’t pick out certain incidentals that don’t go our way and act like the cops are all bad… Do you know how bad some of these neighborhoods would be if it wasn’t for the cops?”
The Charles “Barkley rioters scumbags” comments are in sharp contrast with those made by other black leaders on the Ferguson case. Rev. Al Sharpton and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson have both criticized the Ferguson decision and racial profiling by local authorities. President Obama is scheduled to hold meetings with civil rights groups on law enforcement and how to rebuild trust in black communities.
Barkley identified himself as a Republican for a time and has made it clear he’d like to run for Alabama governor some day. But he has also made clear that if he runs, it will be as an independent. In 2007, in a magazine interview, he said he was a Republican “until they lost their minds.”
“The word conservative means discriminatory practically. It’s a form of political discrimination. What do the Republicans run on? Against gay marriage and for a war that makes no sense. A war that was based on faulty intelligence. That’s all they ever talk about. That and immigration. Another discriminatory argument for political gain.”
The shooting of Michael Brown occurred August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, 28, a white Ferguson cop. The disputed circumstances of the shooting and the resultant protests and civil unrest received considerable attention in the U.S. and abroad, and have sparked debate about law enforcement’s relationship with African Americans and police use of force doctrine.
Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson were walking down the middle of the street, when Wilson drove up and told them to move to the sidewalk. An altercation ensued with both men struggling through the window of the police vehicle until Wilson’s gun was fired. Brown and Johnson then fled in different directions, with the officer in pursuit.
In the entire altercation Wilson fired a total of twelve shots, Brown being hit by seven or eight (all from the front) with the last probably being the fatal shot. Witness reports differ as to whether and when Brown had his hands raised, and whether he was moving toward the officer when the final shots were fired.
The shooting sparked unrest in Ferguson, in part due to the belief among many that Brown was surrendering, as well as longstanding racial tensions between the majority-black Ferguson community and the majority-white city government and local authorities.
Protests, both peaceful and violent, along with vandalism and looting, continued for more than a week, resulting in night curfews. The response of area police agencies in dealing with the protests received significant criticism from the media and politicians. There were concerns over insensitivity, tactics and a militarized response.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon ordered local authorities to cede much of their authority to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Mainly peaceful protests continued for several weeks.
A few days after the shooting, the Ferguson Police Department released a video of events at a nearby convenience store that occurred only minutes before the shooting. It shows Brown taking cigarillos and shoving a store employee who tried to prevent him from leaving. The timing of the video release received criticism from some media, the Brown family, and some public officials, who viewed the release as an attempt to impeach Brown.
Others said the video was informative as to Brown’s state of mind, with the shooting incident coming so shortly after the robbery.
The events surrounding the shooting were investigated by a county grand jury. In a press conference on November 24, 2014, Robert P. McCulloch, the Prosecuting Attorney for St. Louis County, Missouri, announced that the jury had decided not to indict Darren Wilson for his actions.
Some legal analysts raised concerns over McCulloch’s unorthodox approach, asserting that this process could have influenced the grand jury to decide not to indict. Some commentators pointed out that it was “not unusual in a police-involved shooting case for a prosecutor to lay out all the evidence and not ask a grand jury for a specific criminal charge,” while others highlighted significant differences between a typical grand jury proceeding in Missouri and Wilson’s case
Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General launched a federal investigation of the Missouri city’s police force to examine whether officers routinely engaged in racial profiling or showed a pattern of excessive force. President Barack Obama announced that the federal government will spend $75 million on body cameras for law enforcement officers, as one of the measures taken in response to the shooting.
Wilson first worked as a police officer in the police department of Jennings, Missouri. He had no disciplinary history with the department. After the Jennings Police Department was disbanded, he became a police officer in Ferguson.
Wilson is described by a Jennings co-worker as an “average officer” who “didn’t get into any trouble.” Former Jennings Police Chief Robert Orr said that he hardly remembered Wilson and said “that must mean he never got in any trouble, because that’s when they usually came to me”
While Charles Barkley calls the rioters scumbags, he does bring up a few valid points. Barkley knows how to stir controversy, notes the Washington Times, but it takes someone like him to balance the debate. In some weird sense, he brings balance to the table.