Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a speech in South Carolina celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, while also comparing the 2014 Ferguson, Missouri, riots and the storming of a state Capitol building last year to the Civil War.
“I do believe the true power behind the promise of America is in the faith of her people. The promise of America, I do believe, is in the faith of the people – our faith in the founding principles of our nation and our profound commitment to make those principles real,” Harris said at the NAACP South Carolina State Conference’s annual “King Day at the Dome,” held in the State House in Columbia.
“Generation after generation, on the fields of Gettysburg, in the schools of Little Rock, on the grounds of this state house, on the streets of Ferguson, and on the floor of the Tennessee House of Representatives, we the people have always fought to make the promise of freedom real,” she continued.
Her speech argued that “freedom is under profound threat” in recent years, citing the Supreme Court decision in 2022 that effectively ended the recognition of a constitutional right to abortion, “active-shooter drills” in schools, and election laws that force “students to wait in line for hours because of laws that intentionally make it more difficult for them to cast a ballot.”
On social media, Harris’ remarks comparing the Battle of Gettysburg, which is widely considered the turning point of the Civil War, to the protests and riots in Ferguson and gun control activists breaching the Tennessee Capitol last year raised eyebrows.
“Kamala Harris says the Ferguson riots and the disruptions by a few far-left Tennessee state representatives are just like what happened ‘on the fields of Gettysburg’ and ‘in the schools of Little Rock,’” RNC Research posted.
Buildings and businesses in Ferguson, Missouri, were left burned and in disrepair as protests calling for justice over the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown often turned violent in 2014, as rioters looted business, set cars on fire and attacked police officers. The city, which had still not recovered from the 2008 financial crash at the time of the protests, was left in a financial deficit, Reuters reported at the time, while local news reported the police response to the riots cost taxpayers an estimated $5.7 million.
Brown, a Black man, was shot and killed by White police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson nearly 10 years ago in an interaction that lasted roughly two minutes. The Department of Justice investigated, and detailed in its report that Wilson was on-duty and spotted Brown walking in the middle of the road with a friend on Aug. 9 after “Brown stole several packages of cigarillos” from a nearby liquor store.
Wilson, aware of the reported theft, approached the men, told them to walk on the sidewalk and called for backup, the DOJ detailed. Brown then reached into Wilson’s car, sparking a struggle between the two.
“Wilson and other witnesses stated that Brown then reached into the SUV through the open driver’s window and punched and grabbed Wilson. This is corroborated by bruising on Wilson’s jaw and scratches on his neck, the presence of Brown’s DNA on Wilson’s collar, shirt, and pants, and Wilson’s DNA on Brown’s palm. While there are other individuals who stated that Wilson reached out of the SUV and grabbed Brown by the neck, prosecutors could not credit their accounts because they were inconsistent with physical and forensic evidence, as detailed throughout this report,” the DOJ said in its report, released in March 2015.
Brown was unarmed at the time of the shooting, and tried to get a hold of Wilson’s gun, according to the cop’s testimony, leading to Wilson opening fire on Brown, the report explains. No witnesses could corroborate Wilson’s claim that Brown attempted to take the gun, but no credible evidence was found disproving the claim.
Following Brown’s death, activists chanted “hands up, don’t shoot,” referring to witness testimony, which was later discredited, that Brown raised his hands in surrender before his death.
The Obama administration’s Justice Department ultimately declined to charge Wilson, clearing him in the case.
“Federal statutes require the government to prove that Officer Wilson used unreasonable force when he shot Michael Brown and that he did so willfully, that is, he shot Brown knowing it was wrong and against the law to do so. After a careful and deliberative review of all of the evidence, the department has determined that the evidence does not establish that Darren Wilson violated the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute,” the DOJ said at the time.
Then-President Barack Obama defended the DOJ’s decision to not charge Wilson, while arguing the investigation showed Black residents and activists were justified in their concerns over the treatment of Black Americans by police.
“What happened in Ferguson is not a complete aberration,” Obama said at the time. “It turns out they weren’t just making it up. It was happening.”
The Ferguson riots ultimately led to the arrests of 321 individuals, and 16 people, including police officers, were injured.
Harris’ comment that Americans “make the promise of freedom real” through actions such as protesting on “the floor of the Tennessee House of Representatives” was in reference to protests that formed outside and within the Tennessee Capitol last year.
A trio of Democratic state lawmakers led protesters on the House floor last March calling for stricter gun control measures following the Covenant School shooting in Nashville. The Christian school shooting killed three children and three adults last March, while the shooter, identified as transgender former student Audrey Hale, was fatally shot by police.
More than 1,000 protesters gathered outside the state Capitol on March 30, before some of the protesters entered the building. Legislative business was halted as the three Democratic lawmakers, later known as “The Tennessee Three,” used a bullhorn to lead the protesters in calling for gun control.
Two of three lawmakers were subsequently expelled for violating the chamber’s decorum rules. Amid votes to expel the members, chaos erupted again as porters stormed into the building and chanted, “No more silence, end gun violence.”
Republican lawmakers and pundits ultimately compared the protests to an “insurrection” and the event of Jan. 6, 2021, when supporters of former President Donald Trump breached the U.S. Capitol.
“What they did today was at least equivalent, maybe worse, depending on how you look at it, of doing an insurrection in the Capitol,” Republican Speaker of the Tennessee House Cameron Sexton said of the first protest in March of last year.
The expelled lawmakers later reclaimed their seats in August.
Harris wrapped up her speech on Monday saying Americans will fight and win for freedom.
“The great Coretta Scott King once said, ‘Freedom is never truly won. You earn it and win it in every generation.’… At this moment in history, in the relay race of history, I say, then, let us not throw up our hands, because it’s time to roll up our sleeves. And we were born for a time such as this,” she said.
The White House did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment on Harris comparing the Civil War to the Ferguson riots and the protests in Tennessee.
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