President Obama addresses unrest in Ferguson


I want to address something that’s been in the news over the last couple of days, and that’s the last situation in Ferguson, Missouri. I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by the images we’ve seen in the heartland of our country as police have clashed with people protesting, today I’d like us all to take a step back and think about how we’re going to be moving forward.

This morning, I received a thorough update on the situation from Attorney General Eric Holder, who’s been following and been in communication with his team. I’ve already tasked the Department of Justice and the FBI to independently investigate the death of Michael Brown, along with local officials on the ground. 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. I 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.

I also just spoke with Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri. I expressed my concern over the violent turn that events have taken on the ground, and underscored that now’s the time for all of us to reflect on what’s happened and to find a way to come together going forward. He is going to be traveling to Ferguson. He is a good man and a fine governor, and I’m confident that working together, he’s going to be able to communicate his desire to make sure that justice is done and his desire to make sure that public safety is maintained in an appropriate way.

Of course, it’s important to remember how this started. We lost a young man, Michael Brown, in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances. He was 18 years old, and his family will never hold Michael in their arms again. And when something like this happens, the local authorities, including the police, have a responsibility to be open and transparent about how they are investigating that death and how they are protecting the people in their communities. 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’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights. And 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 on what they see on the ground.

Put simply, we all need to hold ourselves to a high standard, particularly those of us in positions of authority. I know that emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened. There are going to be different accounts of how this tragedy occurred. There are going to be differences in terms of what needs to happen going forward. That’s part of our democracy. But let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family. We are united in common values, and that includes belief in equality under the law, basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest, a reverence for the dignity of every single man, woman and child among us, and the need for accountability when it comes to our government.

So now is the time for healing. Now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson. Now is the time for an open and transparent process to see that justice is done. And I’ve asked that the attorney general and the U.S. attorney on the scene continue to work with local officials to move that process forward. They will be reporting to me in the coming days about what’s being done to make sure that happens.

Thanks very much, everybody.


  • Ian Shaw

    My first thought would be why does the AG, DOJ and FBI need to be involved in this. There are procedures in place any time a police officer shoots someone. I may be out in left field, but this seems to be a bit of an overstep of jurisdiction.

    If protestors are going to far, the governor has the power to use the state’s national guard to keep the peace.

      • Ian Shaw

        So the protestors are breaking no laws with the vandalism that is taking place? The token “two wrongs don’t make a right” need not apply? Do you know the victim was shot because of his ethnicity?

        • James Stanton

          Of course vandalism is wrong. But the vast majority of the protestors are not breaking laws. At least 9 looters were arrested and their names revealed. Most of that occurred on the first night of protests.

          I suspect the protests are less because of whether the victim was shot due to his ethnicity and more to do with holding police accountable and not allowing them to paint the victim as deserving of death without further public scrutiny.

          • Ian Shaw

            Understood, but as soon as Al Sharpton gets involved (and it’s not a matter of if but when), it will no longer be about the later, but about the former (from your statement).

            • Chris Ryan

              I’m glad Al Sharpton is involved. There are still lots of racial issues in this country & we need someone who can shine a light on those issues. We could use a million more men of God to do the same. Thank God that we have someone who speaks up for minorities, the powerless, and the dispossessed.

              • Ian Shaw

                If he truly spoke for minorities, he’d hold meetings for all the black on black crime that happens in Flint Michigan every week. But he doesn’t. Why is that? He couldn’t have any other motive for what he speaks on could he?

                • James Stanton

                  Ian, what are your motives in denigrating Al Sharpton here and bringing up black on black crime? The mere presence of Al Sharpton should not lead anyone to dismiss a case other than on the merits.

                  Do you think Al Sharpton is unaware of the scourge of black on black crime? He doesn’t have any solutions and neither do you or me.

                  Bringing up Al Sharpton does nothing more than give yourself a reason to not look at things objectively.

            • Jane Dunn

              Sharpton is already involved. After the first night of unrest he met with the family and they all made pleas for nonviolence and calm in the community.

    • James Stanton

      Ian, please do yourself the favor of looking into why those entities are involving themselves in this type of case as I not in a position to do the research right now. Secondly, they are not being used to keep the peace. That remains the job of local law enforcement as you will likely not see any DOJ/FBI agents in uniform at these protests on tv.

    • Chris Ryan

      Yeah, the Feds have jurisdiction over Civil Rights enforcement and can investigate if the Ferguson police violated Brown’s rights when they killed him. From multiple accounts in the news it additionally appears that they were invited in by both local & state authorities. Clearly when multiple witness statements contradict the story of the local police the Feds need to get involved. The city had a civil rights lawsuit filed against it way back in Jan, so its not as if charges of discrimination against them are brand new. The police’s story is that the kids were originally rousted for jaywalking. If that’s the sum of wrongdoing by the boys its quite easy for me to think that the policeman was just harassing the boys. I’ve never seen anyone pulled over for jaywalking on a neighborhood street! Or, for that matter, even on a heavily trafficked street! Geez I walk down the street of my neighborhood every single morning when I do my morning walk! I didn’t realize how criminal that was!!

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.