Missouri Democrat: 'They Cannot Find Jobs'

Susan Jones | August 13, 2014 | 8:27am EDT
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Protestors drop to their knees and put their arms in the air during a rally for Michael Brown Jr., who was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer last Saturday, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Clayton, Mo. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Laurie Skrivan)

Unemployment isn't a problem only for Ferguson: Nationally, the unemployment rate for black Americans is more than double that of white Americans, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The numbers released on Aug. 1 show the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for black Americans ages 16 and over was 11.4 percent (up from 10.7 percent in July), while the unemployment rate for whites 16 and over remained steady at 5.3 percent in August.

The picture is even grimmer for young blacks: In August, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for blacks of both sexes, 16-19 years old, was 34.9 percent, almost double the 18.3 percent unemployment rate for whites of both sexes in that 16-19 age group.

Nasheed said the police shooting of Michael Brown on Saturday afternoon was the flashpoint for the community's other, long-simmering problems:

"It's unjustifiable. How can you justify killing and shooting down a man in the middle of the street, execution-style, again simply because his only crime was walking in the middle of the street wanting to visit his grandmother? He wasn't considered a statistic. He didn't have any felony charges. He...wasn't involved in any gang activities. He didn't do any of those things. He wasn't a drug dealer. He was an upright young man who did exactly what his mother told him to do -- go to school, get a good education, and become a productive citizen."

Nasheed said the black community in Ferguson needs a "fair and transparent investigation."

"We need an independent investigation from the Department of Justice. Because many of the people in the community, they don't trust the county prosecutor. They know that in the past, he sided with the police department."

Appearing on the same MSNBC program, St. Louis Alderman Antonio French (D) also called for the federal investigation:

"As far as the investigation into what this is all about, which is the killing of young Mike Brown, there's no trust between the Ferguson police department and the community at this point. And there's not much trust with St. Louis County police department and the community at this point.

"It's only going to take an independent federal investigation to get these people what they want which is justice for this young man that was murdered."

French said one of the reasons for the "unrest" -- including looting, vandalism and arson -- "is because there's such a disconnect between the government of Ferguson and the people who live here. So, the people who live here are two-thirds African-American. The government of Ferguson is almost all white and have been unable to communicate, or it seems empathize, with the community in this time of crisis. And that has created a really contentious environment.

"At times I think it should have been a soft hand, one of compassion, reaching out to these young people who are rightfully angry and frustrated; and instead they got a very heavy-handed response which, again, I think made it worse."( French earlier said the police had been "heavy-handed" with protesters.)

Older civil rights activists are trying to calm the situation by speaking directly to young people: "But frankly, the healing hasn't begun yet," French said. "We're still in crisis. And what has to happen, what is necessary to get beyond this, these conversations, have not even started.

"And so, we're still in the middle of it. It's not going to be solved overnight. It didn't happen overnight. But we really need to get to the business of healing our community."

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