"I believe this has crossed the line where we are endangering lives of those who wear a uniform to protect us. How can we expect a criminal – a potential criminal – who might want to commit a gun crime or any kind of crime against law enforcement, to read a transcript and try to understand context or hyperbole? Words matter. And Sen. Chambers said these words."-- Nebraska Sen. Beau McCoy
Chambers' controversial remarks run from 51:06 to 58:36
Nearly a week after he said it, Nebraskans have decided to be outraged, horrified and morally offended by Sen. Ernie Chambers, who pointed out in a legislative committee meeting that ISIS wasn't a threat to ordinary folk in his district, but the police were.
In more than one case recently, this has been demonstrably true.
But something being demonstrably true in a nation that's seen a spate of unarmed civilians -- many of them black -- being killed by heavily armed police is no deterrent to Nebraskans when it's yet again time to hate on the outspoken man who for decades was the state's only African-American legislator, and now is one of only two.
And did I mention that it took people almost a week to get outraged over widely reported "outrageous" comments?
What people are saying is that Chambers said he'd shoot a cop because the cops are the equivalent of the worst sort of Islamic terrorists. What Chambers actually said is quite different.
State senators confronted Sen. Ernie Chambers Thursday during an extraordinary two-hour discussion about his remarks last week comparing police interaction with black citizens to ISIS treatment of its victims in the Mideast.
One freshman legislator, Sen. David Schnoor of Scribner, demanded the Omaha senator resign from the Legislature.
But Chambers dismissed insistent calls that he apologize or retract statements he made during a committee hearing last week.
His critics focused their criticism on a brief remark by Chambers that if he carried a gun -- which he doesn't -- and found himself confronted by a police officer, he'd want to shoot first and ask questions later, "like they say the cop ought to do."
Gov. Pete Ricketts weighed in on the discussion from outside the legislative chamber by issuing a news release urging Chambers to "issue a full apology for his remarks (and) condemn all violence against law enforcement."
During an interview after the Legislature adjourned for the week, Chambers said "there's not a person in my (legislative) district who thinks I would want to shoot a cop."
"The kids in my community are too smart to put that interpretation on those words," he said.
During the debate, Chambers said he's "used to be being piled on" after growing up as a black youth in a white culture and later during a public career of confronting senators in a Legislature in which he usually was the sole black senator. Two of the 49 current senators are black.
"I don't expect you to understand what I'm talking about," he said.
A number of senators who took exception to Chambers' comments last week defended his right to express his views even if they disagreed with him.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to pile onto Sen. Chambers," Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins said after the flood of criticism had begun.
"I do not condone what Sen. Chambers said, (but) let those among us who are without sin cast the first stone."
Chambers, he said, has "done a great service to this body for 40 years."
Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha said he now regrets that he didn't "nudge Senator Chambers and express my disappointment" when he made the remarks during last week's Judiciary Committee hearing, but he said he also needs to be prepared to call a colleague to account the next time he hears a reference to "a retard."
Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm said he has heard a senator refer to people who receive public assistance as "leeches," and he reminded colleagues that Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha, who initiated Thursday's debate, dismissively knocked a bobblehead doll rendition of President Barack Obama off a fence post in one of his 2014 gubernatorial campaign TV ads.
THIS AD. I wonder whether McCoy regrets his symbolic act of violence against the president of the United States.
I wonder whether he wonders whether he planted a seed in the fertile soil of a future assassin's warped mind. Because, after all, actions matter. And Sen. McCoy whacked that Obama bobblehead.
I'm seeing people from politicians to regular slobs on Facebook demand that people like Ernie Chambers "walk a mile in cops' shoes." Bullshit.
You don't get to say that unless you equally insist that cops -- and Republican politicians, for that matter -- walk a mile in the shoes of Chambers' north Omaha constituents. So far, I haven't heard anybody meekly suggest that cops might, if they have time someday, and if it really isn't too much trouble, walk a block in the shoes of ordinary black folk in the 'hood.
Like people say, "Fair is fair." Unless that depends on what the definition of "is" is.
FOR THE RECORD, here is what Chambers actually said a week ago. Unedited for political effect or for outrage generation in the Internet age:
My ISIS is the police. And you know what the county attorney said, Don Kleine: If the officer makes a mistake, if he's wrong but he had reason to think that he was right, then he's clear. I cannot get away with that and shoot you and say, well, I thought he was going to do something. They say, uh-uh, buddy, that doesn't work.
Well, now we presume that these officers are trained. To show how little their training means and how they hide behind it, some guy out east was fired because he was dealing with a guy who had a mental problem and wound up...he was on duty, shot the guy 14 times, and he was fired. Now he's trying to get his job back. And you know what the lawyer is arguing? And he's justified in view of the not finding any fault in what these cops are doing. He said, yes, he shot the man 14 times, but it was within his training.
So now, if the police are trained to shoot somebody in the back, then the cop who shoots in the back says, it was pursuant to my training, and he's home free. That's what's happening. I would tell young people: If you tell somebody to go across the world to fight for ISIS, they can put you in jail if you just talk about it. If you want to fight injustice, don't...you don't have to go around the world to find the ISIS mentality. Your ISIS is in America and you're likely to die over there, one way or the other. So if you're going to die, die making your home safe. My home is not threatened by ISIS. Mine is threatened by the police. The police are licensed to kill us, children, old people.
They showed a guy on a highway. The highway trooper, he had this elderly black woman down on the ground, just beating the stew out of her, and nothing was done to him. That's what I see. Now suppose somebody told me somebody from ISIS did that. Then everybody is up in arms: See what cowards they are? They beat women in broad daylight. But when a cop does it, it's all right. I don't feel that way.
And if I were going to do something -- but I'm not a man of violence -- I wouldn't go to Syria, I wouldn't go to Iraq, I wouldn't go to Afghanistan, I wouldn't go to Yemen, I wouldn't go to Tunisia, I wouldn't go to Lebanon, I wouldn't go to Jordan. I would do it right here.
Nobody from ISIS ever terrorized us as a people, as the police do daily. And they get away with it and they've been given the license now. And people don't like me to say this. Then you rein in your cops. And you know what they say, the racism of the cops is merely reflective of the racism in this society and they accept the existence of racism to excuse the cop.
But then when I say there is racism in the society, they say, you're playing the race card, your talking about it makes it happen. But when they want to justify the cop, they say, he's merely reflective of the community where there is white racism. And that's what I look . . . you don't have to deal with that. You're privileged. You're free of that. You don't have to think about it every day. If I was going to carry a weapon, it wouldn't be against you, it wouldn't be against these people who come here that I might have a dispute with.
Mine would be for the police. And if I carried a gun, I'd want to shoot him first and then ask questions later, like they say the cop ought to do. But could I get away with it? You know I couldn't get away with it. They'd better hope I never lose my mind and find out that I'm on my way out of here.
(Laughter)NOW, WOULD I have made this point in the manner the senator made it? No. No, I wouldn't have.I always get into trouble when exercising my right to hyperbole. On the other hand, I suck at attracting attention, too.
But I will say this. If somebody shoots Ernie Chambers because of this latest God 'n' country "two-minute hate," I hope that when people riot, they burn city hall and the police headquarters in Omaha, and then the state capitol in Lincoln rather than lay waste to their own neighborhoods.
You never want to be your own ISIS.