President Obama Addresses First Amendment Rights After ‘Media Blackout’ In Ferguson Protests

'Police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs,' Obama says.

Wednesday marked the fifth night of protests in the Ferguson suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot, and there’s still no sign of a return to normalcy.

Over the course of the night, cops brandished automatic weapons and combated protesters’ use of Molotov Cocktails with tear gas. But it wasn’t just protesters that clashed with police: Journalists trying to report from the scene were also arrested, calling into question a violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of the press.

On Thursday (August 14), President Obama joined the conversation during a televised broadcast.

“There is never an excuse for violence against police, or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting. There is also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protestors, or to throw protestors in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights,” Obama said. “Here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people, what they see on the ground.”

In addition to the arrests of dozens of local protestors, Two Huffington Post reporters were arrested and temporarily detained while trying to use the WiFi at a local McDonald’s. They had apparently overstayed the time limits cops had given them.

Although the entire series of events beginning with Michael Brown’s shooting death on Saturday, August 9, have been alarming, this latest update brings some startling new concerns about censorship, in a case that has captured national attention.

Related: A Timeline Of The Michael Brown Shooting

That news helped to spawn the trending hashtag #MediaBlackOut, with outraged observers on Twitter using it to further the conversation about abuse of power.

During the news conference, Obama also issued a carefully worded statement on the unrest in Ferguson, where, he explained the government is focused on “ways they can maintain public safety without restricting the right of peaceful protests, and while avoiding unnecessary escalation.”

“I’ve made clear to the attorney general that we should do what is necessary to help determine exactly what happened, and to see that justice is done,” Obama added during the news conference.

Watch Obama’s speech in the video below, just before the five-minute mark.

Embedded from