(The president’s address about Ferguson starts at 4:34 mark)
“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 said. “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.”
The circumstances surrounding Brown’s death on Aug. 9 are hazy. Authorities said he attacked an officer in an attempt to disarm him. In response, the officer, who has yet to be named, opened fire, killing the 18-year-old. However, witnesses have come forward, saying Brown was gunned down after he surrendered.
Groups gathered on Sunday in the town just outside of St. Louis to protest the shooting, but things quickly went awry. Sects among the protestors grew angry and began vandalizing and looting nearby areas, ultimately forcing police engagement. Angry demonstrations have continued since, and again have forced police engagement.
However, many say the protests have been peaceful, but police have been escalating the scene with their presence and aggressive tactics by shooting tear gas and rubber bullets. Police have reportedly arrested protestors, activists, political leaders and even journalists.
“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 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.”
On Monday both the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigations announced official inquiries into the shooting. The federal reviews will run alongside local investigations into the matter.
“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,” Obama said. “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; a 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.”