- Michael McBridepastor of The Way Christian Center in Berkeley, California. He is also national director of the Lifelines for Healing Communities Campaign, part of People Improving Communities through Organizing.
As we continue our live broadcast from Ferguson, Missouri, we speak with Michael McBride, pastor of The Way Christian Center in Berkeley, California. He is also national director of the Lifelines for Healing Communities Campaign, part of People Improving Communities through Organizing, or PICO, the largest faith-based network of community organizing in the country. McBride has been in Ferguson working with young people as a peacekeeper and supporting their acts of civil disobedience. He says the protesters are “practicing the legacy of civil rights and resistance” in the United States. “People wondering why folks are so outraged? Because we have children,” McBride says. “What parent would not be outraged that their children are being killed by people who we pay with our tax dollars?”
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we broadcast from Ferguson, Missouri, continuing to discuss the protests that have taken place here for the past 11 days to demand justice in the police killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.
For more, we turn to Michael McBride, pastor of The Way Christian Center in Berkeley, California. He’s been here in Ferguson working with young people as a peacekeeper, supporting their acts of civil disobedience. He’s also national director of the Lifelines for Healing Communities Campaign, part of People Improving [Communities] through Organizing. The group is known as PICO, and it’s the largest faith-based network of community organizing in the country.
Michael McBride, welcome to Democracy Now! Why did you come to Ferguson?
PASTOR MICHAEL McBRIDE: Well, certainly, our challenge, sitting at home, watching all of the violence that had taken place, the killing of Mike Brown, we were facing a number of calls from people here in the state of—or in the city of Ferguson, and clergy called us, and they asked us to come. And we certainly responded. And we began to bring our staff in as early as Friday. And we were appalled by what we experienced and what we had seen, how the young people were being traumatized, fired all these tear gas canisters. They were collecting rubber bullets, showing us wounds on their bodies. Some of our staff were on the front lines, and they were saying that the soldiers were throwing these tear gas canisters without warning. It’s all just been a travesty, a very egregious, egregious, what I call evil that we’ve witnessed these last 11 days. And we could not sit on the sideline, and we had to come to Ferguson to make every effort to try and help support, but also bring a moral imperative to end what we believe is an overaggressive policing of a group of people who have already been traumatized by the death of Mike Brown.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk more about young people.
PASTOR MICHAEL McBRIDE: Well, the young people here have made every effort to do nonviolent protest and make every effort to stay within the bounds of their constitutional rights. We’ve been at many, many offices where the young people have sat down on the ground, have done nonviolent protest, have willfully brought folks forward to be arrested and to do their own crowd control, the Organization for Black Struggle, a number of different folks here, right here on the ground, doing their own self-policing and regulating to demonstrate their outrage. And they have not been met with goodwill. They’ve been met with brute force. And it is unacceptable, if we’re living in a democracy where we say we care about our children.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the demands.
PASTOR MICHAEL McBRIDE: Well, the demands that have been placed through the Organization for Black Struggle and other allies, they want the immediate firing of the police chief. Certainly we want an indictment of this officer. They’re asking for the governor to appoint a special prosecutor. They’re asking for the president and other folks to begin to investigate every unarmed killing of an American citizen, by the federal government, and not leave it to local jurisdictions, because local jurisdictions are proving that they are unable to do the work in an expedient manner.
They have a number of demands that are very, very powerful, some of which is the demilitarizing the police force. Standing behind me is a Humvee that I’ve only seen in the movies. And I’m a citizen of this country. I pay taxes. I teach our kids to be nonviolent. And yet they are with soldiers running up and down the street because they’re protesting. We raise the kids to be Martin Luther King. We show them all of the videos of the civil rights movement, and they are practicing the legacy of civil rights and resistance in this country. And they are being met with tactics that are only shown on TV in other countries who are struggling to become a democracy. It is outrageous. And the president should be ashamed it’s happening on his watch. Eric Holder should be ashamed it’s happening on his watch. This governor should be ashamed it’s happening on his watch. This mayor should be ashamed it’s happening on his watch. Every adult in this country should be ashamed that African-American children are being terrorized by adults in the United States of America that claims to be the land of the free and the home of the brave.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you make of Attorney General Eric Holder coming here today to Ferguson?
PASTOR MICHAEL McBRIDE: I’m glad he’s coming, but I’m more interested in what he’s going to do when he comes. All right? We work with the Department of Justice. We work with a number of them regularly to talk about community building, to talk about a number of different things. So I’m glad he’s coming, but he needs to come with an indictment. He needs to come with an investigation of this police department. The young people tell us that for most of their lives they have been racially profiled in this community. The adults tell us, for decades, they have been terrorized in this community. So, this is just not a singular incident, according to the residents who live here in this area. Just yesterday, a mentally ill African-American man was killed in St. Louis with a knife in his hand. Now, you would think that given all that’s happening, that why won’t they—why won’t they shoot the folk in the legs? What is the excessive force? What are the kill shots about? It is not acceptable in a civilized society. So, we’re modeling behavior for young people.
AMY GOODMAN: And the references to, well, people are coming in from outside this city?
PASTOR MICHAEL McBRIDE: They’re killing their own people in the city. We’re telling people to come from outside the city. They’ve killed two African-American men in the last week in this city. These are supposed to be professional, trained law enforcement. They are not acting professional. They take target practice. The weapons that they use only kill individuals if you hit them in the head. They have levels of engagement. They can use their hands. They can use their batons. They can use their tasers. A gun should be a last resort. If someone is running toward you, pop their kneecap. What is the face? Why are you aiming for the face? It is an irrational fear of black men. And if you’re that scared of black men, you should not police black communities. God is going to judge us for what we’re doing to our children. And I’m not going to sit on the sideline. The clergy are not going to sit on the sideline. The parents are not going to sit on the sideline. People wondering why folks are so outraged? Because we have children. What parent would not be outraged that their children are being killed by people who we pay with our tax dollars?
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Michael McBride, I want to thank you for being with us.
PASTOR MICHAEL McBRIDE: Sorry for being so animated.
AMY GOODMAN: Don’t apologize. Michael McBride, pastor of The Way Christian Center in Berkeley, California, national director of the Lifelines for Healing Communities Campaign, part of People Improving [Communities] through Organizing.