During a speech in Massachusetts on Thursday, President Barack Obama addressed the continued protests and clashes in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of 18-year-old unarmed Michael Brown. While the president called for national unity and healing, at the same time he escalated the federal response to the violent protests in Missouri with state officials trying to deescalate the crisis by bringing in the highway patrol to take over security from local police.
“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,” he said. “I’d like us all to take a step back and think about how we’re going to be moving forward.”
Obama has asked that the Department of Justice and the FBI to independently investigate the death of Michael Brown, along with local officials on the ground. “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,” he added.
The president went on say that when a tragedy like the death of Michael Brown happens, “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.”
He also spoke out against police brutality, stating that there is “no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests, or to throw protestors 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.”
Soon after, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., issued a statement saying he was “deeply concerned” about “the deployment of military equipment and vehicles” to combat protesters in Ferguson. He said that Missouri officials have accepted federal assistance “to conduct crowd control and maintain public safety without relying on unnecessarily extreme displays of force.’’
Holder further noted that, “Federal civil rights investigation into the shooting incident itself continues, in parallel with the local investigation into state law violations. Our investigators from the Civil Rights Division and U.S. attorney’s office in Missouri have already conducted interviews with eyewitnesses on the scene at the time of the shooting incident on Saturday. Our review will take time to conduct, but it will be thorough and fair.”