FERGUSON, Mo. – A prominent pastor in Ferguson, Missouri, says he fears President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Gov. Jay Nixon and other politicians are using the tragedy of the police shooting of a black youth for their own gain.
“If they can, they’ll use it,” Stoney Shaw, pastor of First Baptist Church of Ferguson, said of the racial upheaval, in an interview with WND in his church office.
Shaw, 74, cited former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s adage, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
“I think this president is in such hot water … from a lack of leadership,” Shaw told WND. “I had high hopes for the first black president. I think he’s a sharp guy. I don’t have anything personal against him.
“[But] I think he’s a socialist. I think he takes the Constitution and uses it the way he thinks to make things ‘fair.’”
As for Holder, who arrived in Ferguson Wednesday without taking questions from media, Shaw said, “I think he’s trying to right some things he thinks have been wrong for a long time.”
He criticized Holder for dropping the prosecution of the members of the New Black Panther Party caught on video in 2008 holding billy clubs outside a polling station and allegedly intimidating voters.
Nixon, in an interview Wednesday, called for “justice” for the family of shooting victim Michael Brown and a “vigorous prosecution” of the police officer who fired the shots.
Shaw said it was clear evidence Nixon had prejudged the case.
“‘We need a vigorous prosecution?’ Well, wait a minute, the grand jury hasn’t even met yet. I think we’re skipping a phase,” Shaw said.
Brown was a suspect in a strong-arm robbery of a convenience store Aug. 9 when Officer Darren Wilson encountered him walking down the street with a companion. Initial witness testimony claimed Brown, unarmed, was shot for no reason after raising his arms in surrender. But sources close to the police department say Wilson suffered severe facial injuries, including an eye-socket fracture, and was nearly beaten unconscious before firing his gun, Fox News reported. A dozen other witnessed have corroborated the officer’s story.
Since the shooting, the face of Ferguson to the world has been tear gas, Molotov cocktails, riot police, screaming protesters, broken windows and smoky streets.
No justice without truth
Shaw said not only are the politicians off the rails, the media aren’t helping much. The violence, he said, has directly impacted only a small part of Ferguson and was brought on by only a small group of extremists, mostly from outside the city. WND reported Mayor James Knowles said most of the culprits were not residents of Ferguson.
A German television team came Tuesday and interviewed him, several church staff members and others, he noted.
“I wish ABC or NBC would do that, to see that most of Ferguson is still focused on the same things we’re already focused on, people.”
He said the truth needs to be sought, and then the justice system will work.
“How can you have justice without truth? If it’s not truth, then you have vigilantism,” he said. “We believe in justice. Let the justice system work.”
Political commentators also earned Shaw’s criticism.
He pointed out that activist Al Sharpton came to Ferguson and demanded “respect,” then “he turned around and trashed our police chief.”
“Respect goes both ways,” Shaw said.
He said if the teen was acting criminally, it should be acknowledged. Likewise, if the officer went beyond what the law allowed, he should be prosecuted.
“I wish he hadn’t been shot,” Shaw said of Brown. “I wish [police] backup had gotten there.”
He said his church is “doing everything we can to minister to the community, black or white.”
“I would hope that our track record would show people that we love people because of Christ. We’re not trying to take sides,” he said.
Ferguson people cleaning up outsiders’ mess
Shaw, who has been in ministry 40 years, said the community is diverse, solid, older and mostly stable.
“The city would love to have more black officers. They go to the academy every year. They do get some. But after a year or two, a municipality that can pay more takes them away,” he said.
Shaw said the violence largely has been confined to a small area of the city and should be blamed on mostly outsiders, such as the “black Muslims” and “New Black Panthers.”
“Some are doing it to exploit. They’re the ones breaking into stores, taking cigarettes,” he said. “I don’t believe a lot of Ferguson people are doing that.”
He said members of his own community are the ones who show up in the morning, after the windows have been broken, to put things back together.
“People are coming in every day and are cleaning up,” he said. “It’s Ferguson people who are coming.”
What you see on TV is not Ferguson
Joe Costephens, pastor of the nearby Passage Community Church, told WND about nine of 10 people arrested in the protests are not from Ferguson, and a full 20 percent are not even from Missouri.
He said Ferguson is a “solid community” where multiple generations live.
“It’s a blue-collar, hard-working people who want to raise their families,” he said. “What you see on TV is not the Ferguson people. The people who live in Ferguson are family oriented and just want to get a leg up on life.”
He blamed “opportunists” who come into the town for their own benefit.