Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri says the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, where violent clashes have erupted since last week's fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, looks like the war-torn Iraqi city of Fallujah.
"Well, Ferguson resembles Fallujah more than it does Ferguson that we had right off I-70 during the 1960s and '70s," Cleaver said Tuesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" show.
Cleaver described Ferguson, which has a majority black population but a mostly white police force, as a city "essentially left behind in terms of racial progress," saying the situation has sparked frustration and anger among residents.
"All you have to do is look at the demographics and then look at positions that people hold in the community," Cleaver said. "And I think you’d have to understand that to understand the anger that the world is now seeing all day and all evening with the people of Ferguson."
President Obama has ordered the Justice Department to investigate the shooting death of Brown, an unarmed black teen, by a white police officer. But Cleaver said the violence that has been sparked in the shooting's aftermath makes it difficult for federal investigators to do their jobs.
Cleaver, past president of the Congressional Black Caucus, added that a visit to the city by Obama would be "another distortion."
"We put enormous pressure on anyone if we create the atmosphere that if this person comes to town, everything is going to be OK," he said. "We don’t need that now ... we don’t need any more people coming into Ferguson to help the poor people out during this time of trouble. What we need is a sense of calm. And anything other than that is going to be dangerous."