NEW YORK — New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof said he would not be surprised if Black Lives Matter protests led to more violent confrontations between police and protesters.
The protests have brought renewed attention to tensions between police officers and protesters in Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, and in cities across the country, with the protests sparking the deaths of four people.
The unrest in Ferguson and in New York, which have been the focus of recent protests, began with a black man being shot by a white officer who said he feared for his life, sparking a national conversation about race.
Kristof said on Wednesday that he thinks the Black Lives Matters protests have been spurred by a larger social and political context.
“It’s a big deal,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“I think it’s a bigger story than I thought.”
The Times columnist was reacting to the Black lives matter movement that emerged in New Orleans last week and the deaths in Minnesota and Minnesota State University, in which students were injured.
He said it is a “big deal” when young Black people are killed by police and that the protests are a “political” thing, not a “moral issue.”
The protests erupted last week in Ferguson after a white police officer fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9.
The incident sparked weeks of protests in cities including Los Angeles, Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York City, and the National Guard deployed to St. Paul, Minn., to protect police officers.
“I think we’re getting to a place where it’s politically very serious,” Kristof, who is black, said on “Morning James.”
“There are some big political issues here.”
In response to protesters in New Jersey last week, Kristof penned an op-ed for The Times saying he believes it’s time to stop “coddling” police officers who have been accused of misconduct.
He wrote that he supports the use of deadly force by police officers but believes “a better use of force is the use, by the officers themselves, of less lethal force, such as less-lethal, less-aggressive tactics that would send a clear message to criminals that the police will protect you, if necessary.”
Kristof added that he doesn’t think the protests have anything to do with the deaths.
“They’re a reaction to the police,” he wrote.
“If I’m black and I live in a city and I’m walking past the police, I think it should be a bigger deal than, you know, a black person being shot.
It’s not the same thing.”
Kristoff said on Thursday that he has never spoken with Black Lives matter organizers.
He did not respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.
He said he thinks that the “movement” is growing and that “the tone is changing.”
“If you’re not going to be on the same side as the police in the end, that’s a real problem,” he told MSNBC.