Top House Dem calls protests ‘defining’ historical moment, but condemns looting

Top House Dem calls protests ‘defining’ historical moment, but condemns looting

Rep. James Clyburn, the No. 3 leader in the U.S. House, said the protests sweeping the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s death are a “defining” moment in history, as he condemned looters and rioters he said are trying to hijack the peaceful movement.

Clyburn, the House majority whip and the highest-ranking African American leader at the Capitol, spoke out against the rioters who are breaking windows, setting fires and throwing stones at police officers.

“That destructive behavior … will not contribute to anything that will make this a better country and make a better future for our children and our grandchildren,” Clyburn, D-S.C., said during a live Washington Post video interview Wednesday.

Clyburn compared the outcry over Floyd’s death in Minnesota after a policeman knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes to that over the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 in Mississippi that gave way to the civil rights movement.

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“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like this since maybe Emmett Till,” said Clyburn. “I do believe that was a defining moment in this country’s history. I think this was a defining moment.”

Clyburn helped form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1960 along with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. The lawmaker made comparisons between today’s activism and the civil rights movement of decades ago that suffered when people tried to exploit and hijack their nonviolent message, he said.

“And we cannot allow anybody to come into this movement,” Clyburn said. “Peaceful protest is our game. Violence is their game. Purposeful protest is our game. This looting and rioting, that’s their game. We cannot allow ourselves to play their game.”

Clyburn’s clear condemnation for rioters and looters stands out as some have sought to downplay the property damage and violence as a distraction from the peaceful protests and the work of a few outside agitators.

Clyburn also took aim at President Trump for clearing a park near the White House on Monday before a photo op at St. John’s Church, damaged in the melee, with a Bible in his hand, accusing Trump of acting like an emperor and misusing his power.

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“This president may be the worst president we have had since Woodrow Wilson,” Clyburn added on CNN about Trump.

Clyburn, a prominent backer of former Vice President Joe Biden, said it’s time the country rise up for reforms and to take action for the fall presidential election.

Clyburn said it would be a “plus” for Biden to pick an African-American woman as his presidential running mate, but not a “must.”

“The only thing that’s a must … is to win,” Clyburn said.

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