Attorney General Merrick Garland said in an interview the nation does not yet have ‘equal justice under law’ – as he marked the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing and spoke of persistent racism as the jury meets in the Derek Chauvin trial.
He described racism as an ongoing problem throughout the country, when asked about racism on police forces.
‘Look, racism is an American problem,’ he told ABC News.
Attorney General Merrick Garland called racism ‘an American problem’ in an interview while the nation awaits a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial
‘It’s plain to me that there has been and remains discrimination against African Americans and other communities of color, and other ethnic minorities. I think it’s reflected in discrimination in housing and employment and the justice system. … We do not yet have equal justice under law,’ said Garland.
Garland described his initial reaction to videos of Floyd’s arrest that set off nationwide protests.
‘I also saw the videos last summer, all through the summer,’ he said.
‘And like many Americans, I was shocked. But many Black Americans were not shocked, because they have known of this kind of treatment before,’ he continued.
‘I felt that beginning last summer, at least, there was a chance to bring this to the fore of the national consciousness, to create a moment in which we could change. And part of the reason that I wanted to be attorney general was I wanted to help bring that change,’ he said.
But he made a point of not commenting on the case in a way that might prejudice the outcome. ‘I intend to wait until the verdict before I will say anything and I would urge the American people to do the same,’ Garland said.
Local organizer Brandyn Tulloch speaks to the crowd during a demonstration on April 19, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The jury began deliberating today in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in the killing of George Floyd while detaining him last May
Demonstrators protest near the Hennepin County Courthouse on April 19, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Garland got asked if racism among police was a problem
Demonstrators protest near the Hennepin County Courthouse on April 19, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Garland said the nation does not yet have ‘equal justice under law’
Garland showed emotion and appeared to hold back tears while describing how his grandparents fled antisemitism in Eastern Europe – an episode he also recounted when Biden nominated him and during his Senate confirmation hearings.
‘All of us in our family feel an obligation – public service – and try to protect other people the way the country protected us,’ said Garland.
Garland’s reticence to get into the case – he served as chief judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals – comes as some politicians have jumped into the fray.
California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters sparked outrage by traveling to Minneapolis on Saturday and urging protesters to ‘get more confrontational’ if Chauvin was acquitted.
The judge presiding over the case said her comments may have handed Chauvin’s defense grounds for appeal.
Garland spoke with emotion while describing how his ancestors fled anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe
She defended her words calling for ‘confrontation,’ saying: ‘The whole Civil Rights movement is confrontational.’
Philonise Floyd said of his conversation with BIden: ‘He was just calling. He knows how it is to lose a family member,’ he said.
‘And he knows that the process of what we’re going through so he was just letting us know that he was praying for us, and hoping that everything would come out to be okay,’ he told NBC’s Today show.
He also spoke about the infamous 1921 race massacre in Tulsa, where white residents attacked a swath of black-owned businesses and black residents.
‘This is a moment where it’s important to come to a place like this,’ he told the network as he toured a park that commemorates the event. ‘The kind of devastation that happened here is the product of the same kind of hatred that led to the bombing in Oklahoma City.’
‘They are similar — kind — kinds of devastation brought by terrible hatred. And so I felt I needed to see it, face it,’ he added.
Garland also spoke Monday during a remembrance ceremony at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, his voice occasionally cracking with emotion.
He said the domestic extremism behind the Oklahoma City bombings are ‘still with us’ on the 26th anniversary.
Garland led the investigation into 1995 attack that killed 168 people – including 19 children – as a Department of Justice staffer.
‘Although many years have passed, the terror perpetrated by people like Timothy McVeigh is still with us,’ Garland said, referring to the man convicted and executed for carrying out the attack.
‘Just last month, the FBI warned of the ongoing and heightened threat posed by domestic violent extremists.
‘The Department of Justice is pouring its resources into stopping domestic violent extremists before they can attack, prosecuting those who do, and battling the spread of the kind of hate that leads to tragedies like the one we mark here today.’
Hatred of the federal government motivated McVeigh and his co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, to commit what many experts still refer to as the deadliest act of domestic terrorism on U.S. soil. McVeigh was executed by lethal injection in 2001. Nichols was sentenced to life in prison.
In the ABC interview, Garland tried not to look backward when asked about his nomination to the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama, where he never got a confirmation hearing in the Republican-run Senate. He spoke of protecting the Justice Department from ‘partisan influence.’
‘I look forward,’ he said. ‘I now have the opportunity to do some very important things. I have the opportunity now to lead a Justice Department in pursuit of civil rights. I have a chance to lead a Justice Department in pursuit of the rule of law and ensuring the independence of the department, and its independence — particularly — from any kind of partisan influence in the way we bring investigations or prosecutions,’ he said.
‘And I have a chance to lead a department — sitting here in Oklahoma City — that needs to fight against domestic violent extremists, so that the kind of tragedy that we had in Oklahoma City doesn’t occur.’
‘Moving on is moving on,’ he added.