The last time he was in Ferguson, Missouri, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said he got the sense that the man who shot Michael Brown would walk free.
Jackson was in Greenville on Monday when a grand jury reached its decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, in the shooting death of Brown, an unarmed black teenager.
In the hours before the announcement was made, Jackson drew similarities between Brown, who was 18, and other black men who were victims of violence. The civil rights activist mentioned Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, and more recently, the two black men in New York killed by police.
Too often, Jackson said the officer who serves and protects “is the killer and executioner.”
“The killing is common place, but the justice is not,” he said.
Earlier Monday at Springfield Baptist Church in downtown Greenville, Jackson spoke out against the stepped-up police presence in St. Louis County as law enforcement officials prepared for what might happen should Wilson not face charges in the August shooting.
The 12-member jury had been deliberating in secret for months, weighing evidence and testimony before concluding there was no probable cause to indict the officer, USA Today reported.
Before the grand jury decision was made public, Jackson said leaders in St. Louis who closed schools, blocked streets and mobilized the National Guard in anticipation of an uprising should focus their efforts on uplifting the people.
“When the police bring out (federally funded) tanks and gas masks … that’s violent and provocative and intimidating and must not exist,” he said.
Flanked by members of his Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Jackson also discouraged acts of violence by protesters and police alike, calling them a distraction for Ferguson. “All we want is justice,” he said.
He said the shooting of Brown and the regular protests that have happened since come as a result of a mostly white police force in a predominantly African-American suburb.
With blacks making up about 30 percent of the population in Greenville County, Jackson said police, too, “should reflect the people.”