- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sen. Rand Paul says unrest in Ferguson might not have initially been caused by race, but perceptions in the aftermath have contributed to the racial tensions now associated with the incident.

“Let’s say none of this has to do with race — it might not,” he said in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But the belief, if you’re African-American and you live in Ferguson, the belief is — you see people in prison, and they’re mostly black and brown, that somehow, it is racial, even if the thoughts that were going on at that time had nothing to do with race.”

The Aug. 9 shooting of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown, has sparked a wave of protests in Ferguson and around the country. Mr. Brown was shot by officer Darren Wilson, who is white, and there are multiple ongoing investigations into the circumstances of the shooting.

“So there’s a very good chance that this had nothing to do with race, but because of all of the arrests and the way people were arrested, that everybody perceives it as, ‘My goodness, the police are out to get us,’ you know,” Mr. Paul said. “And so that’s why you have to change the whole war on drugs. It’s not just this one instance. And I don’t know what happened during the shooting, so I’m not going to make a judgment on the shooting, but I do know what’s happening as far as you look at who’s in our prisons.”

Mr. Paul, a possible contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, has also said the country should rethink programs that allow the federal transfers of military-grade weapons to local communities — programs that have received renewed attention in the wake of images of militarized law enforcement personnel that have emerged from Ferguson in recent weeks. After the urging of some in Congress, the White House announced it will be reviewing the programs.

“Homeland Security gave $8 million to Fargo to fight terrorism in Fargo, North Dakota. And I say, if the terrorists get to Fargo, we might as well give up,” Mr. Paul said. “I say that as a joke, but I mean, it’s like, what are we doing spending $8 million in Fargo?”