President Obama Urges Peace As Ferguson Protests Turn Ugly After Grand Jury Decision

'There are Americans who agree with it and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry,' said the president.

Less than an hour after it was announced that the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, had voted not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, President Obama made a statement on the decision.

"It's an outcome that either way was going to be subject to intense disagreement not only in Ferguson, but across America," said Obama, as 24-hour news channels split the screen between the president's address and footage of sporadic street confrontations between protesters and police.

Related: Read Statements From Michael Brown's Family And Officer Darren Wilson After The Grand Jury Decision

"First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law. And so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury's to make. There are Americans who agree with it and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry. It's an understandable reaction," Obama said, his lips pursed and his eyes cast down at times.

Joining the Brown family in asking that anyone who protests the decision do so peacefully, the president repeated the emotional words of Brown's father from earlier in the week. "Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son's death to be in vain."

Brown's family had also asked for four-and-a-half minutes of silence on Monday following the verdict's announcement.


Saying that Brown's parents have lost more than anyone, Obama paused and said that we should honor their wishes in the wake of the decision not to indict. Authorities in the area had been preparing for several weeks for the verdict, calling in the National Guard and declaring a state of emergency in case of just such an outcome.

Obama also urged local law enforcement to use restraint in dealing with peaceful protests, especially in light of the often violent clashes between angry Ferguson residents and authorities in the wake of Brown's murder, which led to some accusing overzealous officers of using excessive force.

Getty Images News/ Justin Sullivan

Paying tribute to the sacrifices made by law enforcement every day to protect citizens, the president urged police to work with the community to distinguish between those who might use the grand jury's decision as an excuse for violence from the vast majority who want to have their voices heard.

"We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation," the president concluded. "The fact is that in too many parts of this country a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country."

Sadly, it is in some of those poor communities with higher crime rates that the best policing is most urgently needed, he said.


"That won't be done by throwing bottles. That won't be done by smashing car windows," Obama said of the path towards a more peaceful co-existence between law enforcement and minority groups who feel the law is often applied against them in a discriminatory fashion. "That won't be done by using this as an excuse to vandalize property."

As Obama was wrapping up his brief address, MSNBC aired footage of a Ferguson police car that had been set on fire and Fox News reported that some shots had been fired and aired footage of the Ferguson Market & Liquor store -- where police said Brown stole some cigars shortly before his death -- being looted.

Related: Learn More About Racial Bias And Discrimination At