Sen. McCaskill: Move Ferguson Protests to 'Green Space' and Screen for Guns

By Susan Jones | August 19, 2014 | 9:12 AM EDT

A man bends down in prayer as police try to disperse a small group of protesters Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

( - Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) says she'd like to move the ongoing and frequently violent protests in Ferguson to public space that is away from the business district:

"Maybe we can move it to some green space and do some kind of just minimal screening to make sure guns are not going in," McCaskill told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Tuesday.

"But right now, there is surveillance going on, and there is a real effort to try to find the people who are actually wanting the confrontation and causing the violence and seeing if we can't begin to be more aggressive about making arrests of those people with the guns, with the weapons, and therefore make it safe for everyone.

"We over-policed for a few days, and then we completely under-policed," she continued. "I think what they're doing now is what they feel they have to do to keep it safe under these dangerous circumstances with these instigators in town."

McCaskill said the media is giving a one-sided view of what's happening in Ferguson.

The confrontations are well-covered, but "nobody's interested in covering any of the efforts that's going on with healing," and that is having a dire impact on small businesses, she said:

"One of my projects now is to figure out how we can pull people back n to shop in Ferguson -- it is perfectly safe in Ferguson during the day. There are many stores and businesses that need our commerce. I hate to see all these great small businesses in Ferguson suffering so terribly because their community is being portrayed in a way that frankly just isn't true."

McCaskill said she supports having the federal government do a parallel investigation into the police shooting of Michael Brown, given the black community's "historic distrust" of state and local authorities.

"I want to make sure with Eric Holder's visit tomorrow, the people in the community are reassured that there is a very, very competent set of eyes looking over the shoulder of every state and local investigator in the community."

McCaskill, a former prosecutor, said yes, she does have confidence in local authorities: "And I want to point out, too, here, and this hasn't been said enough. You know, through history, when police shootings have been investigated, there have been way too many times it's taken two days. Those are coverups -- when it takes two days.

"You can't do this right in two days. And patience is in short supply around here, for all the right reasons. So more people  need to be talking about, if they are doing it right in a complicated scene like this, you  have to take the time to make sure you've checked and double-checked your physical evidence, and you can't let that out -- or all of a sudden, witnesses are going to be parroting back what they've read, instead of what they really saw."

'We have to bring calm to our community'

It may be weeks or months before protestors know if charges will be brought against the white police officer who shot Michael Brown, Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol told MSNBC on Tuesday.

Capt. Ronald Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol hugs a bystander on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo., on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Carson)

"That's not going to happen tomorrow. It may be weeks and it may be months." In the meantime, he said, "We have to bring calm to our community. Our kids cannot stay in their bed for months and not go to school. Our officers cannot come out here for months and put their lives in danger. Peaceful protesters can't come out here for months and put their lives in danger. These homeowners cannot be uncomfortable asleep in their homes wondering if a stray bullet is going to come in their home.

"We have to let our legal system work itself out. And that's what makes our country great. And we'll have to see what the outcome is. We've had our voice, and we've got to bring calm to this situation, and we're going to do that."

Capt. Johnson said he's got a different plan: Today,my hope is that peaceful protesters...will protest during the daytime and stay home at night and let us take those that are bent on ruining our community and take them and deal with them in a way that brings calm to this community.

Johnson said a lot of the agitators come from the St. Louis area. He said many of them are covering their faces to avoid being identified.

He also complained about some journalists who have given the agitators a platform to encourage violence.