President Obama stepped up to the microphone early this afternoon during his Massachusetts vacation to express support for Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) in dealing with the police shooting and ensuing protests just outside of St. Louis.
“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,” Obama said. “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 it and been in communication with his team.”
The DOJ and the FBI are already investigating the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, he noted.
“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,” Obama said. “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 is the time for all of us to reflect on what’s happened and to find a way to come together going forward.”
Obama said the governor, whose presence in the crisis has thus far been minimal, will be traveling to Ferguson. “He is a good man, and a fine governor. And I’m confident that, working together, he’s gonna 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,” he said.
“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. His family will never hold Michael in their arms again,” the president continued. “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.”
And, Obama added in reference to the Huffington Post and Washington Post reporters arrested last night, “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,” he continued. “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’re 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 and 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.”
Obama added that “now’s the time for healing” and “now’s 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,” the president said. “They will be reporting to me in the coming days about what’s being done to make sure that happens.”
Obama left without taking questions from the media and quickly departed for a nearby golf course.