NEW YORK – In his eulogy Monday at the funeral of Michael Brown in St. Louis, Rev. Al Sharpton demonized the white police officer who fatally shot the black teen, alluding to him as a “bad apple” who needed to be removed from the department.
“The only thing in a bushel of apples that ruins the apples is if you don’t take the bad apples out of the bushel. We have to take the bad cops out of the bushel,” Sharpton said.
A grand jury is deciding whether or not Darren Wilson should be charged for the Aug. 9 shooting death of Brown. Black community leaders, emphasizing Brown was unarmed and was shot six times, claim the 18-year-old was raising his hands in surrender when he was fatally wounded. However, evidence has mounted that Brown, confronted about 10 minutes after robbing a convenience store, struggled to get Wilson’s gun, severely injuring the officer’s face. Some witnesses say Brown was rushing toward Wilson when he was shot.
The shooting touched off two weeks of protests that devolved into looting, rioting and confrontations with police.
Meanwhile, Sharpton made no mention of the black-on-white attack in West Point, Mississippi, Saturday morning in which up to seven black males seeking revenge for the Brown shooting beat severely two young white male victims, one a U.S. Marine who served in Afghanistan.
Sharpton used the Brown eulogy to bring up his claim of alleged widespread police brutality and misuse of deadly force in African-American communities nationwide.
“Michael Brown does not want to be remembered for a riot,” Sharpton said.
“Michael Brown wants to be remembered for how America deals with police in the United States. This is about justice, and there is something wrong when we have money to give to police forces but we do not have money for public education to train our children.”
He called on the black community to not “have a fit” but to engage in “a movement,” calling the Brown shooting a seminal moment.
“We have to be here for the long-haul,” he said. “We have to turn our chants into change.”
He urged Congress to “establish police guidelines.”
“We need a fair and unbiased investigation,” he said. “We are not anti-police; we respect police, but those police who are wrong need to be dealt with, just like those in our community who are wrong need to be dealt with.”
Sharpton expanded on his criticism of the law enforcement response to the Ferguson riots, charging America has a double standard when it comes to civil-rights protesting.
“How do you think we look when young people march nonviolently, asking for the land of the free and the home of the brave to hear the cry and you put snipers on the roof and point guns at them?” he asked.
“How do we look? How do we look when people who support the officer – and they have a right and an obligation to do that – but when we support Michael Brown, we’re dividing the country?”
‘Clean up our community’
At the same time, Sharpton did not spare the black community from criticism.
“We have to clean up our community so we can clean up the United States of America,” Sharpton said.
“Can you imagine how heartbroken the mother and father were when they had to stop their mourning to ask you to stop looting and rioting?” he asked.
Sharpton elaborated on his theme.
“Yes, we have to take the bad cops out of the bushel. But we also have to be outraged by our disrespect for each other, our disregard for each other, our running around and shooting and gun-toting each other. We cannot act like being black is how low you can go. Blackness is not about being a thug. Blackness is about no matter how low we are pushed down, we always rise up anyhow.”
A Department of Justice study in 2012 found that arrest rates for violent crimes among African-American juveniles ages 10 to 17 were three times the rates for white juveniles in 2010. African-Americans were six-and-a-half times more likely to be murdered than the average white person, and nine out of 10 black people murdered were killed by other black people.
Sharpton ended his eulogy on a positive note.
“I have read the end of the book,” he said referring to the Bible. “And I know the way the book ends is that we get justice.”
But he didn’t elaborate on what precisely he considered “justice” to be either in the Brown case or with regard to police conduct nationwide.