“There is no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protestors,” President Obama said this afternoon as he addressed the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the ongoing protests that have erupted in the aftermath of his death.
He commented directly on Brown’s death, and the police repression of protestors and journalists:
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. When something like this happens, local authorities, including police, have a responsibility to be open and transparent about how they are investigating that death and how they are protecting people in their communities.
There is never an excuse for violence against police or those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism and looting. There is also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protesters or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights. 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 emotions are raw right now in Ferguson, and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened … Let’s remember we’re all part of one American family. We’re 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 every single man, woman and child among us, and the need for accountabilty when it comes to our government.
Obama confirmed that the Department of Justice and FBI have independent investigations open into Brown’s death. The DOJ is also, Obama said, “consulting with local law enforcement on ways they can maintain public safety without restricting the right to peaceful protest and while avoiding unnecessary escalation.”