After hundreds of people rioted and looted in Ferguson, Missouri, Sunday evening to protest the death of Michael Brown – an unarmed, black 18-year-old whom a police officer shot over the weekend – CNN anchor Don Lemon sympathized with the rioters and lawbreakers.
Appearing as a guest on Brooke Baldwin’s CNN show Monday, Lemon said, “this is about the treatment of men of color in our society.”
“They are treated differently whether it be law enforcement, whether it be at work, whether it be at a grocery store, whether it be on the street,” he said. “They are treated differently, and… they get a different level of respect.”
Lemon said there is a “double standard,” and unless “white people” realize that “black people, especially black men are treated differently,” then “nothing is going to change.”
He said the rioting is “terrible,” and went on, “I hate when people riot and what happened in Katrina” However, he explained, “…but when people are put in dire situations, you don’t know how they are going to react.” Lemon clearly emphasized that he was not saying rioting is right and personally urges people “to be peaceful and calm.”
“I am not saying I agree with them, but I understand,” he said.
Former NYPD detective Gil Alba told Lemon that rioting and looting ruin the relationship between the police and the community.
“There should never be rioting,” Alba said.
Lemon replied, “When people are frustrated, they react the way they are going to react. I don’t agree with them, but I do understand it.”
After Alba said, “you can’t understand it,” Lemon replied, “I do understand it.”
Earlier in the conversation, Lemon said he lived in St. Louis and found cities in the North and Midwest like St. Louis and Chicago to be the “worst racially” out of all the cities he had lived in – even more so than Southern cities like Birmingham, Alabama, or Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Lemon said people assume that Americans “escape racial tensions” in non-Southern cities. But Lemon said that since people in the South had dealt with segregation and racism, “black people and white people came to some sort of agreement, for lack of a better word.”
He said St. Louis was one of the most segregated areas he had even been in and said the downtown area looked like a war zone with the dilapidated “F-towns” like Ferguson, where Brown was killed and the riots occurred, Festus, and Fenton.