25 November 2014, The Tablet

US Catholic bishop sees 'excessive force' by Ferguson police

A Catholic bishop has criticised the racial divide between whites and blacks in the US, complaining that it is only addressed when tragedies such as the shooting of African-American teenager Michael Brown happen.

Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee in Florida, president of the National Black Catholic Congress, described the night of rioting that followed a grand jury decision not to indict his killer, a white police officer, as “part of a cycle of violence that is going to continue spiralling”.

He told the US-based Catholic News Service: “People throw up their hands in air when there aren't clear solutions or they are distracted by other things going on," adding that there seems to be a "consistent pattern of excessive force used against African-American men."

Meanwhile the Archbishop of St Louis, Missouri, pleaded for an end to the violent rioting.

ALT TEXTMan walks past burning building during rioting in Ferguson, Mo. Photo: CNS photo/Jim Young, Reuters

Archbishop Robert Carlson said that “offensive and violent outbursts” and acts of civil disobedience had taken place since the grand jury received the case, despite the victim’s family’s repeated calls for peace.

“We continue to see that segments of our community have not fully renounced the tendency to lash out with antagonistic behaviour and violence,” he said.

Mr Brown, 18, was shot dead in Ferguson, St Louis County, Missouri on 9 August by police officer Darren Wilson. The defence held that he had tried to surrender before he was killed, but the state prosecutor and Mr Wilson contradicted this.

Following the grand jury’s announcement last night some 29 people were arrested amid widespread reports of looting and vandalism, the BBC reported.

A police chief told the BBC that last night’s violence was “probably much worse” than any night since Mr Brown’s death.

Archbishop Carlson said: “I implore each of you: choose peace! Reject any false and empty hope that violence will solve problems. Violence only creates more violence. Let’s work for a better, stronger, more holy community – one founded upon respect for each other, respect for life, and our shared responsibility for the common good.”

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