Democratic state Representative Bruce Franks Jr. of St. Louis says he holds his fist in the air during the pledge of allegiance because the United States doesn’t reflect all of the words in the patriotic vow.
Franks appeared on the conservative Fox News TV show “Tucker Carlson Tonight” Friday, where he told the host that he usually is someplace else when the pledge is sworn on the Missouri House Floor. He says the phrase “liberty and justice for all” doesn’t represent all people.
“When I think liberty and justice for all, we obviously haven’t seen that across the United States,” said Franks. “Over time over my 33 years of living, we see that when it comes to justice, that looks a little different, depending on sometimes where you’re from, depending on sometimes what your socio-economic status is, and what you look like.”
Franks made news nationally when he held his fist in the air during the pledge of allegiance at the opening day of this year’s Missouri Legislature. He told Carlson that veterans often tell him they fought for his right to express himself.
“They don’t necessarily agree. Many of them have expressed to me that this is the very reason why they fought. They fought for our First Amendment rights. We’re not always going to agree on when we exercise them, or what we’re exercising them about. But it’s our right to exercise them.”
Franks’ exchange with the noted conservative host did not feature any animosity. The relatively low-key segment lasted roughly five minutes.
The African American Democrat was criticized by some Republicans in the GOP dominated legislature for his gesture on the House floor on the opening day.
During his TV appearance, Carlson asked Franks, a former semi-professional rapper, why he used the phrase “killing snitches” in a piece of music he composed a number of years ago. Franks noted he doesn’t embrace those lyrics anymore, and said it’s more important to focus on what he’s saying now.
“I would like for people to pay attention to the current situation, and the fight that we are putting up, and the stances that we are taking, rather old lyrics from nine, ten years ago,” Franks said.
The conservative news site “The Daily Caller” publicized a story that was picked up by other right-leaning outlets last October in which it detailed some of Franks’ provocative lyrics.
Franks received at least one threatening tweet after his appearance on Fox News.
The St. Louis resident is a self-described community activist who gained attention during protests following the killing of unarmed African American youth Michael Brown by a Ferguson Police Officer in 2014.
He defeated Democratic incumbent State Representative Penny Hubbard in the party primary in September 2016, after a judge threw out earlier results showing Hubbard has won, after Franks complained about voting irregularities. He went on to win the general election in the heavily Democratic 78th District in St. Louis.
Franks helped organized demonstrations following the acquittal last September of a white police officer who killed an unarmed black drug suspect in 2011.
Along with local African American clergy members, Franks stated that the purpose of the protests was to inflict damage upon the local economy. Franks claimed the protests had already inflicted $11 million in economic damage, including a cancelled U2 concert. “That sounds effective to me,” Franks said at the time.
He was arrested twice during those demonstrations. In September he was taken into custody along with 142 other people for blocking a major St. Louis interstate freeway for more than a half-hour.
Franks was also among seven people arrested during a Black Friday protest in November at the upscale Galleria shopping mall in St. Louis. He was highly critical of police treatment after that episode, claiming officers used a lot of unnecessary force.
Among the numerous bills Franks has filed in the current legislative session is one requiring the Director of the Department of Public Safety to initiate disciplinary action when the Director is presented with any information demonstrating cause to discipline a peace officer.