After several days of militarized police officers attacking protestors with tear gas, firing rubber bullets, and arresting members of the media, President Obama made a statement on the intensifying situation in Ferguson, Mo. following Mike Brown being shot and killed by a police officer on August 9.
During an afternoon press conference, the President’s made brief comments, focusing on the need for calm in these highly emotional times as well as providing some detail of the federal government’s involvement in the investigation of Mike Brown’s murder. In addition to stating that “this is a time for peace and reflection” he shared that he has instructed the Department of Justice and the FBI to independently investigate Brown’s death. He also says that he spoke with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, and expressed confidence that Nixon would be able to take control of what has been a chaotic set of circumstances in his home state.
Finally, the President made it clear that the Ferguson police should not be arresting journalists who are out exercising their first amendment rights by documenting what’s happening on the ground or using force when unnecessary. Governor Nixon is scheduled to make a statement this afternoon at 3:00 p.m.
Read the abridged transcript of the speech, which begins after the President addressed the situation in Iraq.
“Now, second, 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.”