St. Louis Activist: We Must Thank Looters for 'Wake-Up Call'

Susan Jones | August 12, 2014 | 8:04am EDT
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A looter leaves a store on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Carson)" type="node

( - Michael Brown's family has condemned the criminality that followed his shooting by a police officer, but some activists view the looting near St. Louis as a "wake-up call."

"And we in some way have to thank them for giving us a wake-up call," community activist James Clark told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell Monday night. "And now that we have the wake-up call, we must mobilize and go into our neighborhoods and offer them a sense of hope and a sense of purpose."

Two nights of looting, arson, vandalism and other criminal behavior followed Brown's shooting on Saturday afternoon.

Witnesses say Brown was unarmed when a white police officer shot him multiple times, killing him under circumstances that are still unclear. Witnesses have said that Brown had his hands raised when the unidentified officer approached with his weapon drawn and fired repeatedly.

"This is a situation that probably could have been resolved without shots fired," Clark told CNN. "We understand that the officer was also equipped with a taser. So we are looking for justice in this instance, and we are very, very confident that justice will prevail."

As of Tuesday morning, President Obama had not yet commented on Brown's shooting or the violence, but Attorney General Eric Holder promise a "fulsome review." Holder announced that the FBI is looking into possible civil rights violations.

"At every step, we will work with the local investigators, who should be prepared to complete a thorough, fair investigation in their own rights," Holder said. "I will continue to receive regular updates on this matter in the coming days. Aggressively pursuing investigations such as this is critical for preserving trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

Clark told MSNBC that Brown's shooting and violent aftermath offer the opportunity to "learn something."

"We have been very, very neglectful of the St. Louis community, as in communities all over America, when you look at the urban core. There is an obvious disconnect where we have allowed a subculture to grow and fester within our neighborhoods.

"And so we have learned that we cannot shut people out. we cannot disregard people's need to be welcomed into society because it means that the individuals are now angry, and they have the right to be angry.

"So -- so, and we in some way have to thank them for giving us a wake-up call. And now that we have the wake-up call, we must mobilize and go into our neighborhoods and offer them a sense of hope and a sense of purpose."

St. Louis Alderman Antonio French told CNN that everyone should be concerned about the simmering anger in the "young African-American community."

"A lot of us out here are trying to calm things down, especially getting a hold of the young guys and let them know there's a better way to voice their anger. But there is a lot of anger and some of it is very justified. I think we need to do a better job of including them in our whole community."

French also noted that "a lot of people from outside of Ferguson have come here because they share the anger and the frustration."

French said the furious reaction to Brown's death stems from people not believing that "justice would be served. It seemed it would be business as usual. And that just caused people to become even more angry."

But Michael Brown's grandfather, Les McSpadden, says there's "no sense" to people who are trying to burn their own neighborhoods. McSpadden said  his grandson's legacy "shouldn't be about looting, stealing, kicking police cars."

The Rev. Al Sharpton said he plans to be in Ferguson Tuesday morning to meet in person with Brown's family and then hold a news conference. Protesters, meanwhile, plan to gather outside the office of St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch on Tuesday, St. Louis television station KSDK reported.

McCulloch is quoted as saying it will take several weeks to complete the shooting investigation, and he is asking anyone with information, photos or videos to contact him.

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