President Obama On Ferguson: ‘No Excuse For Excessive Force By Police’
President Barack Obama returned to the White House after a rough vacation week in Martha’s Vineyard on Monday (Aug. 18) and the fatigue was evident across his face. The Prez held a press conference to deliver updates on the situations in Iraq and Ferguson, Mo., but left the Internets scratching their heads by the time the question portion rolled around.
As the St. Louis suburb continues to experience turmoil following the Aug. 9 shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, Obama tried to tread carefully, saying that the Department of Justice was conducting an independent, civil rights investigation into the matter and identifying that there is a “big gulf of mistrust” that often lies between local residents and law enforcement officials throughout the country.
“I have to be very careful about not prejudging these events before investigations are completed,” he said. “Because, although these are, you know, issues of local jurisdiction — you know, the DOJ works for me. And then when they’re conducting an investigation, I’ve got to make sure that I don’t look like I’m putting my thumb on the scales one way or the other.”
See the full transcript as posted by the Washington Post below.
I also want to address the situation in Ferguson, Missouri.
Earlier this afternoon, I spoke with Governor Nixon as well as Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill. I also met with Attorney General Eric Holder.
The Justice Department has opened an independent federal civil rights investigation into the death of Michael Brown. They are on the ground and along with the FBI, they are devoting substantial resources to that investigation.
The attorney general himself will be travelling to Ferguson on Wednesday to meet with the FBI agents and DOJ personnel conducting the federal criminal investigation and he will receive an update from them on their progress.
He will also be meeting with other leaders in the community who’s support is so critical to bringing about peace and calm in Ferguson.
Ronald Davis, the director of the DOJ’s Office of Community- oriented Policing Services, or COPS, is also traveling to Ferguson tomorrow to work with police officials on the ground. We’ve also had experts from the DOJ’s community relations service, working in Ferguson since the days after the shooting to foster conversations among the local stake holders and reduce tensions among the community.
So, let me close just saying a few words about the tensions there. We have all seen images of protesters and law enforcement in the streets. It’s clear that the vast majority of people are peacefully protesting. What’s also clear is that a small minority of individuals are not.
While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving into that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos. It undermines rather than advancing justice.
Let me also be clear that our constitutional rights to speak freely, to assemble, and to report in the press must be vigilantly safeguarded: especially in moments like these. There’s no excuse for excessive force by police or any action that denies people the right to protest peacefully.
Ours is a nation of laws: of citizens who live under them and for the citizens who enforce them. So, to a community in Ferguson that is rightly hurting and looking for answers, let me call once again for us to seek some understanding rather than simply holler at each other. Let’s seek to heal rather than to wound each other.
As Americans, we’ve got to use this moment to seek out our shared humanity that’s been laid bare by this moment. The potential of a young man and the sorrows of parents, the frustrations of a community, the ideals that we hold as one united American family.
I’ve said this before. In too many communities around the country, a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement. In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear. And through initiatives like My Brother’s Keeper, I’m personally committed to changing both perception and reality. And already, we’re making some significant progress, as people of good will of all races are ready to chip in. But that requires that we build, and not tear down. And that requires we listen, and not just shout. That’s how we’re going to move forward together — by trying to unite each other and understand each other, and not simply divide ourselves from one another. We’re going to have to hold tight to those values in the days ahead. And that’s how we bring about justice, and that’s how we bring about peace.
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