Aug. 15--WASHINGTON -- The police killing of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Mo., is thrusting both race and law enforcement into the political spotlight -- with the potential to motivate both left- and right-leaning voters ahead of the critical midterm congressional elections -- as President Obama and other national officials decried a heavy-handed cop response to protests yesterday.
"When something like this happens, the local authorities including the police have a responsibility to be open and transparent about how they are investigating that death, and how they are protecting the people in their communities," Obama said on Martha's Vineyard, adding people should not be put "in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights."
Ferguson police have used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse largely peaceful crowds near the site where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot over the weekend. Two journalists were arrested and reportedly assaulted by police Wednesday before being released without charge.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder voiced concern about "extreme displays of force," saying "the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message."
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the focus of presidential buzz, tweeted yesterday: "This is America, not a war zone. The people of #Ferguson just want answers. We all want answers."
National pollster John Zogby said Ferguson could fire up a major voting bloc in an election so far dogged by Democratic voter apathy.
"The issue, when it comes to African-American voters, is intensity," Zogby said. "An issue like this could bring out intensity where it wouldn't be otherwise."
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a GOP presidential prospect, yesterday decried the "militarization of local police" and "erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury."
"Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them," Paul wrote.
"Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them."
On Boston Common last night, several hundred people joined a nationwide moment of silence. Rudee Sade, 27, said she is leaving her job to go to Ferguson: "I want to see what the truth is from the people, and bigger than that, I want to talk about why this keeps happening."
(c)2014 the Boston Herald
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
Original headline: Teen's death could stir up voters
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