Prairie View, TX – A Democratic U.S. Senate candidate likened current law enforcement in the United States to the “new Jim Crow” during a town hall on Wednesday night.
Robert “Beto” O’Rourke is challenging incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in the fall election.
The two will face off in a televised debate on Friday night, the Dallas Morning News reported.
O’Rourke is facing harsh criticism from the law enforcement community after he trashed police at Prairie View A&M University on Sept. 19.
“First of all, it doesn’t surprise me. Anybody who’s been arrested as many times as Robert O’Rourke’s been arrested may have some ill will towards the police,” Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree told FOX News.
O’Rourke was arrested for burglary and DWI in separate incidents in the late 1990s.
The burglary victim, the University of Texas, eventually declined to press charges, and he completed a court-recommended DWI program in order to have the DWI dismissed, according to Politifact.
“You know his rhetoric is divisive, it’s insulting, but most of all it’s dangerous,” Sheriff Murphree told FOX News.
During the town hall meeting held on a university campus, O’Rourke was asked about criminal justice reform.
He went on to describe the chain gangs of the pre-civil war era, and then said that the same problems existed in law enforcement today.
“That injustice, too many more people here that I know of firsthand, continues to persist today,” O’Rourke said.
“That system of suspecting somebody, solely based on the color of their skin,” he continued. “Searching that person solely based on the color of their skin. Stopping that person solely based on the color of their skin. Shooting that person solely based on the color of their skin. Throwing the book at that person and letting them rot behind bars solely based on the color of their skin is why some have called this, I think it is an apt description, the ‘new Jim Crow.’”
Sheriff Murphree said O’Rourke’s rhetoric harkens back to the Obama era.
“You know there’s been a war on police officers for the last several years. And when someone that has as many followers as Mr. O’Rourke has, and the context that he puts police officers in – it makes it dangerous for citizens and police officers,” the sheriff said.
“A lot of people listen to what he has to say, and when he speaks, people take that to heart. And he needs to understand that he has a responsibility to not be divisive,” he explained.
The sheriff pointed out that the Jim Crow laws O’Rourke referred to were written and passed by Democrats. He said the candidate’s characterization was insulting to both police and citizens.
O’Rourke’s campaign denied that he’d been talking about police officers when referring to the Jim Crow laws, FOX News reported.
They pointed to his complimentary remarks about a murdered Fort Worth Police Officer Garrett Hull the day before to prove his support for police.
Officer Hull was fatally shot in the head during an undercover operation on Sept. 14.
“It was pretty direct that he was talking about police officers,” Sheriff Murphree argued. “One day he’s praising a very brave Fort Worth police officer who died in the line of duty, and the next day we’re all racist.”
The sheriff endorsed Cruz wholeheartedly for reelection.
“He understands that the people of Texas, no matter what party, support law enforcement,” Sheriff Murphree said.
On Aug. 21, NowThis News tweeted a video of O’Rourke explaining his stance on football players kneeling for the National Anthem.
O’Rourke claimed “Black men, unarmed, black teenagers, unarmed, and black children, unarmed, are being killed at a frightening level right now, including by members of law enforcement without accountability and without justice.”
The Washington Post investigated O’Rourke’s claims and determined they were mostly false.
“The Facts: If you drill down and look at the data for unarmed black children killed by police, there is virtually no support for the idea that this happens at a frightening level,” the newspaper reported.
“The Washington Post fatal-shootings database for 2015, 2016, 2017 and through Aug. 20 of this year shows no black children were fatally shot by police in that period,” the article read.
The Washington Post went on to say that during the same time period, only three unarmed black teenagers were killed by police.
The statistics showed that more white or Hispanic children and teenagers were killed by police than black children in the same age group, The Washington Post reported.