Invoking his experience as a big city mayor earlier in his career, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) argued Tuesday that the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo. was caught off guard by the fallout from a local police officer’s killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.
But it didn’t take long for Rendell to receive a rebuttal from a lawmaker on the ground.
During an appearance on “Morning Joe,” Rendell said that Ferguson could have used a system like the one employed in Philadelphia, where he served as mayor for two terms in the 1990s.
“In Philadelphia, we have something called a civil affairs unit. We had it way before I was mayor,” Rendell said. “And the civil affairs people go out into the community. They often bring the police clergy with them. We have 78 clergy members who signed up to help the police and they preach at the very beginning, they preach restraint and they say peaceful demonstrations and they say let’s work this out together. Obviously, nothing was in place in Ferguson. They had no protocols for dealing with this. So they are playing catch-up.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) appeared on the MSNBC morning show later in the broadcast, and she wasn’t about to let Rendell’s observation go unchallenged.
Appearing via satellite from St. Louis, the Missouri senator took a pass on wading too deep into a conversation about President Obama’s response to the tumult in Ferguson. Instead, she steered the conversation back to Rendell.
“I have an opportunity now to say that Ed Rendell is wrong, and I don’t get that opportunity often enough,” McCaskill said. Ed Rendell is wrong about one thing. I was in church in Ferguson on Sunday and every church in Ferguson was packed. There wasn’t a lot of cameras at all these different churches. … We’ve got everybody engaged on the ground trying to reach out to young people. I’m meeting with a group of young people again tomorrow. There is all kinds of things going on on the ground and it is not getting the coverage it deserves.”