Black Democratic Rep 'Appalled' by Racial Protests, Comparisons to Civil Rights Movement: 'What Have We Become?'

A Black Democratic state representative in Tennessee said he's "appalled" by comparisons between today's racial unrest and Martin Luther King Jr.'s era of the Civil Rights movement.

Memphis Democratic State Rep. John J. DeBerry Jr. criticized ongoing racial protests in Portland, Kenosha, and across the U.S., asking fellow members of the Tennessee General Assembly, "what kind of people have we become?"

DeBerry said he witnessed the 1960s Civil Rights movement firsthand and blasted comparisons between those demonstrators of "class and character" and the protesters of today he described as emulating "the worst of stereotypes."

"I'm appalled when folks want to call this stuff that's happening now and compare it to the Civil Rights movement when there is absolutely no comparison," DeBerry told Fox News Friday.

DeBerry delivered remarks on August 12 as the Tennessee state legislature debated a law that would increase penalties for demonstrators suspected committing violent offenses against police officers. He repeatedly defended Americans' rights to defend their property from the "looting and stealing" seen in places like Kenosha, Wisconsin, last week after the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake.

"If we don't start standing for something don't you know that the people that are looking at what's happening in Washington, in Detroit, in Portland, in Seattle, they're getting emboldened because we act like a bunch of punks. Too frightened to stand up and protect our own stuff," the Tennessee state lawmaker said earlier this month.

"You tell me that somebody has the right to tear down property that Tennessee taxpayers paid for? That American taxpayers paid for? And somebody has the right to destroy it, deface it, and tear it down? What kind of people have we become?" he continued.

In the months since racial and anti-police brutality protests were ignited following the Minneapolis death of George Floyd, DeBerry has consistently rejected comparisons between the Civil Rights era and today's demonstrations. He labeled many of today's protesters in places like Portland as violent anarchists, not demonstrators for peace and racial unity.

"People continue to refer to the [Civil Rights movement], but I saw it, I saw men and women stand with courage and integrity and class -- and they changed the world," DeBerry said during floor remarks August 12. "I am one of those individuals who walked in back doors because the law said I had to. I'm one of those individuals who rode on the back of the bus on the back seats that were not cushioned because the law said I had to."

"It's like we're trying to live up to the worst of stereotypes, the worst of behavior, the worst of perceptions," the Democratic state rep continued. "And it's heartbreaking to think that folks think that burning and looting and stealing ... That these things build camaraderie and a good opinion."

Newsweek reached out to DeBerry's Tennessee offices Saturday morning for any additional remarks.

tennessee black democrat racial protest
A Black Democratic State Rep in Tennessee said he's "appalled" by comparisons between today's racial unrest and Martin Luther King Jr.'s era of the Civil Rights movement. Screenshot: TN House Caucus