Updated 12:53 p.m. | Lawmakers are beginning to speak out in reaction to the protests and police response in Ferguson, Mo., following the killing of an unarmed African-American teenager by police on Aug 9.
Many members of Congress are defending the public’s right to protest while calling for peace — and are using social media to voice their support. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wrote on Facebook, “This is America, not a war zone. The people of Ferguson, Missouri just want answers. We all want answers.”
Local police have dramatically increased their response to the protests after incidents of looting and confrontations following Michael Brown’s death. President Barack Obama was scheduled to give a statement Thursday afternoon from Martha's Vineyard, where he is vacationing, and may address the events in Ferguson.
Missouri Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II said in a statement that he is “deeply disturbed by all I have seen and heard,” and noted he and three other Democrats are calling for a full federal investigation into Brown’s death.
“Ferguson deserves better, and the rights of our citizens and of our free press shall not be denied,” Cleaver said. “I will pray for peace in Ferguson. And I will work for justice.” In an appearance on MSNBC, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., called for President Barack Obama to federalize the Missouri National Guard to take control of the streets of Ferguson away from local authorities to protect protesters.
"This is not China or Russia or Syria," the longtime congressman and civil rights leaders said in a statement. "This is America, and in this country we have a right to protest in a peaceful, orderly non-violent fashion, and the press should be free to cover these protests without fear. The police should not interfere in the exercise of these constitutional rights. If people are not allowed to express their dissatisfaction through peaceful protest, they will find other means to make their voices heard."
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, called on Missouri Governor Jay Nixon in a Twitter message to “take control” of the situation in Ferguson. Nixon will be in the area Thursday, and posted on Twitter that he would begin the day listening to faith and civil leaders at a church.
In statement, Nixon called on community members to “demonstrate patience and calm” during the investigation, and on law enforcement offers to “keep the peace and respect the rights of residents and the press during this difficult time.”
After two reporters covering the protests were arrested Wednesday night, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, defended the press and called for peace on Facebook. “Reporters should never be detained — a free press is too important — simply for doing their jobs. Civil liberties must be protected, but violence is not the answer,” Cruz wrote. “Once the unrest is brought to an end, we should examine carefully what happened to ensure that justice is served.”
Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill said she is continuing to monitor the events, and on Wednesday spoke with Molly Moran, the acting assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Department of Justice, about the status of the federal investigation.
“As we continue to grieve for Michael and his family, I’m working to make sure the federal piece of the investigation is fair, transparent, and moving forward without delay,” McCaskill said in a statement, adding she would also reach out to local officials and religious leaders.