Holder tells Ferguson students he was a victim of racial profiling

 

FERUGUSON, Mo. — Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday told a group of black college students that he had been a victim of racial profiling.

Holder, who is in Ferguson as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager, relayed a story about being stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike, despite not breaking any laws.

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“He told the story about how he was humiliated. They got him out of his car and searched his car,” said Bradley J. Reyford, a 22-year-old student who met with Holder.

Holder told the story to a group of students at Florissant Valley Community College, a predominantly black school.

He met with a small group of students to hear their concerns about policing tactics in Ferguson, where riots and looting have broken out over the past week, along with protests and demonstrations related to the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

The attorney general wanted to “get a general idea of how police departments treat the community,” Reyford said

Holder said President Obama is keenly interested in how majority white police departments in communities like Ferguson treat black youths, especially those from poor areas.

"He said the president wants to know what students are feeling about the police departments in the area," Reyford told reporters after the meeting.

Police and witnesses have given differing stories of how Brown was killed, with some witnesses saying Brown had his hands up when he was shot, and police sources saying he had charged a police officer with his hands at his side.

An autopsy report found Brown had been shot at least six times. Police Officer Darren Wilson has been identified as the shooter.

Holder recounted what he described as his humiliating experience of getting pulled over by state troopers on the New Jersey Turnpike, despite not violating any laws.

Holder told a similar story to the NAACP last year after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida.

“I was pulled over twice, and my car was searched on the New Jersey Turnpike when I’m sure I wasn’t speeding, or when I was stopped by a police officer," he told the group last year.

Holder has also recounted being stopped by a police officer while running to catch a movie in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., when he was a federal prosecutor.

Holder, in the past, has also spoken about his father coaching him on how to speak to police officers to avoid harassment.

The students told Holder that police are more likely to pull over a young black driver behind the wheel of a tricked-out car than someone driving a Mercedes-Benz.

He also heard from Molyric Welch, 27, whose brother died after Ferguson police shocked him with a Taser in 2011.

Holder met separately with about 60 leaders from Ferguson and the surrounding communities, including Patrick Green, the mayor of Normandy.

“These young African-Americans want to know absolutely that not just I'm being heard, but it's being taken serious through some action plan,” said Green. “We're going to implement the best practices. That's what DOJ is looking at. What are the best practices around the country that are working.”

Green called the meeting “very effective.”

He said they walked away from it with a “guaranteed commitment” that local communities would put in place guidelines to strengthen relationships between residents and local police departments.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles did not attend the session, according to Green.