As protests continue in Ferguson, Missouri, in wake of the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police, President Obama addressed the nation on Monday (August 18) to urge everyone to maintain “peace and calm.”
Obama announced that the Department of Justice has opened an independent, federal civil rights investigation into Brown’s death and that Attorney General Eric Holder will visit Ferguson to meet with the prosecutors and community leaders there.
Things turned violent last week when protesters clashed with police, with police using tear gas, rubber bullets and armored vehicles. Obama denounced these actions — and emphasized the importance of maintaining a distinction between military and our domestic law enforcement — saying, “There’s no excuse for excessive force by police or any action that denies people the right to protest peacefully.”
But while the POTUS acknowledged that the “vast majority” of the protesters have been peaceful, he said there were still a minority who have not.
In fact, early on Monday, Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard into the city after declaring a state of emergency over the weekend.
“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,” he said. “It undermines rather than advancing justice.”
Instead, Obama urged everyone, both citizens and law enforcement, to “heal rather than to wound each other … We must build and not tear down. We must listen and not just shout.”
“I’ve said this before. In too many communities around the country, a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement,” he said. “In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear.”
He pointed to the “significant progress” made through My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative launched earlier this year to empower young men of color. But he urged everyone: “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.”