Bears defensive lineman David Bass knows both protesters and rioters.
He has friends who held a church service in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, which has been a center of unrest since Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old, was shot six times and killed by a white police officer Aug. 9.
Brown’s death led to more than a week of clashes between Ferguson citizens claiming racial discrimination and a too-often heavy-handed, militarized police force.
Bass has acquaintances, too, who ‘‘actually went to get at the police,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve got people who are on the peace side, and I’ve got people who are on the violence side,’’ Bass, a native of St. Louis, said Monday at Halas Hall. ‘‘I follow them on social networks. I see how they feel, the anger toward the police. And I’ve got people who are against it and against retaliating, all that stuff.’’
And what would Bass — who attended University City High School, seven miles from Ferguson — do?
‘‘I would do just what I’m doing,’’ he said. ‘‘I would probably just give an opinion of how I feel from afar.’’
Bass is speaking out. On Saturday, Sports Illustrated’s ‘‘MMQB’’ ran a story in which Bass detailed incidents of racial profiling while he was growing up in St. Louis. On Monday, he said his race — and his dreadlocks — made him a constant target.
Bass said he understood how Ferguson’s residents could be at odds for years with a predominantly white police force.
‘‘Especially if you’re going to be a black male with the type of hair I’ve got, you’re going to run into police,’’ he said. ‘‘You’re going to run into a bunch of incidents that happen like that.’’
Bass said he has been pulled over several times with little cause in St. Louis.
‘‘Me and my friend, we’re both black, and we’re cruising or headed to the mall, things like that,’’ he said. ‘‘Just suspicious: ‘We want to check your car, see if you’re drunk, see if you’ve got drugs in the car.’ ’’
Bass, a criminal-justice major at Missouri Western State, said he never has been pulled over in Chicago.
‘‘It’s an unfortunate situation going on [in Ferguson],’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t know if it’s a bunch of racial profiling, discrimination or just police and their power. They’re just taking advantage of that, being way too aggressive.’’
It’s hard for Bass to watch. St. Louis pride is such that natives greet each other by asking which high school they attended.
‘‘There’s a lot of hatred that goes on in St. Louis,’’ he said. ‘‘At the same time, when you’re from St. Louis, you’re proud to be from St. Louis. . . . We can’t let this situation put out a bad rep for St. Louis people, as well as let what’s going on with the police brutality and discrimination and profiling put out a bad rep for the police. It’s just a few people sprinkled in there that put out a bad rep for us all. Us as a society, we can’t buy into that.’’
Bass, though, said he isn’t comfortable with his family continuing to live in certain parts of St. Louis. He’s trying to focus on football to ensure their future.
‘‘I’ve got something that’s more important going on right here, so I can make a living, get my family out of St. Louis,’’ he said.
There’s hatred in some areas, he said.
‘‘I don’t want certain family members in certain neighborhoods to have to deal with things like that,’’ he said.