President Obama spoke from Martha’s Vineyard where he is vacationing with his family to address the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri on Thursday, saying that he knows that many people “have been deeply disturbed” by events in that city since the shooting death of Michael Brown on Saturday.
Obama said that he had just been updated by Attorney General, Eric Holder, who is following developments in Ferguson closely as he oversees the investigation into the shooting and the unrest that followed it saying that he has “already tasked the Department of Justice and the FBI” to conduct an independent investigation into the circumstances leading to Browns death.
He also spoke about the need to maintain order:
“The Department of Justice is also consulting with local authorities about ways that they can maintain public safety without restricting the right of peaceful protest and while avoiding unnecessary escalation.”
The President said that he had instructed Holder to determine “exactly what happened and to see that justice his done.”
He went on to say that he had spoken to Governor Jay Nixon (D) and told him of his concerns about the violence that has been escalating for the last five days, stressing the need for everyone to work together to resolve these issues and restore civility to the situation. He also noted that Nixon would be visiting Ferguson soon.
It had not yet been announced at the time the President spoke that the reason for Nixon’s trip to Ferguson was to relieve the St. Louis County Police Department of all law enforcement duties in Ferguson, where their actions to deal with the unrest had contributed to the escalating violence.
Obama emphasized that there is no excuse for violence against police or for vandalism and looting — but that there is also no excuse for the use of excessive force by the police against peaceful protesters or for jailing protesters, as the Constitution guarantees that they may speak out.
“Here in the United States of America,” he said, “police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs.” This is reference to two journalists, Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post, and Ryan J. Reilly of the Huffington Post who were detained by police as they were working on the story inside a McDonalds restaurant.
The President called on all sides to remember that we are all one nation, and that while we may have our differences, we must allow the wounds to heal.
Watch the President’s remarks below.
h/t: Washington Post