By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
LINCOLN, Neb. – A black Nebraska state senator compared American police to Islamic terrorists and suggested he’d shoot a cop if he had a weapon.
State Sen. Ernie Chambers said during a legislative hearing on gun bills Friday that you don’t have to go halfway around the world to find an ISIS mentality. It can be found in America because police terrorize blacks every day.
He was referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which has beheaded journalists and brutally executed Westerners and others.
“My ISIS is the police,” Chambers said, adding police can get away with shooting people if they “think” they’re going to do something — like pull a weapon.
“The police are licensed to kill us — children, old people,” he said.
After his comments were reported by Nebraska Watchdog and picked up by national media outlets, several Nebraska officials called on him to apologize and a senator said lawmakers are considering censuring him.
Click below to hear his comments, courtesy of KFOR:
Nebraska’s longest serving senator, Chambers represents north Omaha, a high-crime area where racial tension simmers and sometimes erupts after encounters with police. In March 2013, for example, police threw a man to the ground and pummeled him while 32 police officers stormed a home across the street, in response to a parking complaint. Four police officers were fired amid allegations of excessive force, evidence tampering and a police cover-up.
“I wouldn’t go to Syria, I wouldn’t go to Iraq, I wouldn’t go to Afghanistan, I wouldn’t go to Yemen, I wouldn’t go to Tunisia, I wouldn’t go to Lebanon, I wouldn’t go to Jordan, I would do it right here,” Chambers said. “Nobody from ISIS ever terrorized us as a people as the police do daily.”
Click to hear the audio:
Chambers then added fuel to the fire, saying if he had a gun, he would use it on police, not his political opponents.
“If I was going to carry a weapon, it wouldn’t be against you, it wouldn’t be against these people who come here that I might have a dispute with. Mine would be for the police,” he said. “And if I carried a gun I’d want to shoot him first and then ask questions later, like they say the cop ought to do.”
During an interview Tuesday, Chambers, who is no stranger to fiery rhetoric and controversy, back-pedaled a bit. He said people in his community feel terrorized by police who can shoot them and are often cleared. He pointed to a recent case of an unarmed Omaha man shot twice in the back by a cop.
“I don’t carry a weapon. I’ve never carried a weapon,” he said. “But if I were in the situation that some people are in … if you’re going to follow the rule available to cops, just shoot somebody and come up with an alibi.”
However, he said he knows young people in his community look up to him and might take his comments literally.
“I’m not advocating that anybody, especially anybody in my community, go out and shoot people,” Chambers said.
Chambers said he was drawing a parallel between people being murdered by ISIS and American citizens killed by police who subsequently are cleared of criminal wrongdoing.
“They’re encouraged and they’re given a free pass,” he said. “All you (police) have to say is you felt like you were in danger, then a citizen could say, ‘I will shoot first and ask questions later.’ ”
He’s pushed local, state and federal officials to stop the flow of guns into his north Omaha community. If weapons were coming into “the white community,” he said, officials would jump on it.
“As long as that happens, the violence will continue,” Chambers said of guns flooding north Omaha.
Although Chambers regularly makes inflammatory statements, his most outrageous comments are rarely covered by Nebraska media — in part because he’s been making them for years.
He’s seen by many as a lovable curmudgeon, iconic liberal and defender of the downtrodden. He is a 77-year-old independent who has served 40 years in the Legislature and often talks about slavery, racial tension and Christian hypocrisy.
His comments Friday were ignored by reporters covering the hearing, although the Capitol reporter working for the Associated Press produced a flattering weekend profile on sketches Chambers draws during hearings.
Chambers’ diatribe was, however, drew the attention of KFOR talk radio host Coby Mach.
“How does anybody get away with something like this?” Mach said Monday. “I’m appalled by that kind of statement. Senator Chambers seems to be wanting to incite violence.”
Mach noted Chambers also has challenged his opponents to hit him in the mouth, has said we shouldn’t take care of military veterans and espoused that all whites are racist.
His listeners also were shocked, calling in to debate whether journalists should report on his rants or ignore them. Others wondered whether Chambers should be investigated by the ATF or FBI and whether he’s a danger to others.
Mach said he thinks other senators are afraid to challenge Chambers because they become his target.
He suggested Chambers incites violence, noting that he recently said, “I’m not hard to find. I don’t have bodyguards. I park in the senator’s parking lot. So confront me and hit me in my mouth, or whatever you think you big enough to do.”
Deb Collins, spokeswoman for the Nebraska State Patrol, offered a limited response to questions.
“It would not be our place to provide comment, other than to say we do not consider there to be a security concern,” Collins said.
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