The US Ambassador to Britain has described the violence between black communities and the police in places like New York and Ferguson as ‘an American problem’ the country ‘needs to face’. His Excellency Matthew Barzun was commenting on violence that has broken out after a Grand Jury in New York cleared an NYPD cop over the death of Eric Garner during an arrest for selling loose cigarettes.
Barzun said: “It’s not a problem with any particular place, it’s not New York or anywhere, it’s a US problem. The problem is relations have broken down between communities of colour and the Police across the whole country. That is something the whole country need to face.”
There has been a wave of protests since the Staten Island district attorney confirmed 29-year-old Police Constable Daniel Pantaleo would not face charges for his role in Garner’s death, which was captured on video. He was seen to choke Garner, in what protesters had claimed was an incident of police racism.
His comments are likely to further inflame racial tensions in America, that reached crisis point when an 18-year-old black man was shot by the Police in Ferguson, Missouri. Michael Brown was shot by Police Constable Darren Wilson, sparking widespread violence.
The two deaths have sparked debate in American about the role of the Police, and about the lack of engagement with the black community. Critics of the protests have suggested the Police have been put in an impossible situation as they suffer from a chronic lack of support from ethnic minority communities.
Ambassador Barzun was an Obama fundraiser for his 2008 Presidential run and is runoured to be interested in running for office himself. He told around a hundred journalists at the House of Commons that he would “return to Kentucky” after he left office but had “made no plans” about his future. Barzun also laughed off heckle from a journalist saying “in Britain that means you are going to run”.
Most Ambassadors serve three years, meaning that Barzun is just over a third of the way through his term. It is not uncommon for American Presidents to appoint fundraisers to the post of Ambassador to the UK, Robert Tuttle was appointed by George Bush jnr after he helped raise money in California.