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Ear to the Ground

Eric Holder in Ferguson: ‘I Am Also a Black Man’

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Posted on Aug 20, 2014

  Attorney General Eric Holder shakes hands with Bri Ehsan, 25, after meeting with students at St. Louis Community College Florissant Valley in Ferguson, Mo. AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Pool

The nation’s highest-ranking law enforcement officer and the first African-American attorney general is now physically in the center of the racially charged uprising in Ferguson, Mo.

Eric Holder arrived in the St. Louis suburb Wednesday, and spoke to his own experience being racially profiled by police.

Los Angeles Times:

“I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man. I can remember being stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike on two occasions and accused of speeding. Pulled over…. ‘Let me search your car.’ ... Go through the trunk of my car, look under the seats and all this kind of stuff,” he said. “I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me.”

He also recalled an incident in which he was stopped by Georgetown police during a nighttime jog with his cousin.

“Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells, ‘Where you going? Hold it!’ I say, ‘Whoa, I’m going to a movie.’ Now my cousin started mouthing off. I’m like, ‘This is not where we want to go. Keep quiet.’ I’m angry and upset. We negotiate the whole thing and we walk to our movie,” Holder said. “At the time that he stopped me, I was a federal prosecutor. I wasn’t a kid. I was a federal prosecutor.”

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Holder met with students, activists and members of the community, although one man quoted by the L.A. Times dismissed the encounter as a photo-op.

The Justice Department is investigating whether shooting victim Michael Brown’s civil rights were violated by police. Holder’s presence in the suburb of about 20,000 people speaks to the extraordinary pull Ferguson has on the country’s attention. It may be a photo-op, but it’s a fascinating one. The fact the Holder is both the nation’s top cop and an African-American male disrupts the narrative, and his trip to Missouri is both unusual and, apparently, welcome.

—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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