President Barack Obama, seeking to calm unrest over the police killing of an unarmed black teenager in Missouri, declared Thursday that there is no excuse for violence against police or for excessive force by officers against protesters.
The president spoke after four nights of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the death of Michael Brown, 18. Police on Wednesday fired tear gas against protesters and arrested 16 people, including two reporters. Police said that rocks and a Molotov cocktail were thrown at officers.
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“There is never an excuse for violence against police, or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting,” he said. “There’s 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.”
He also said that police should not be “bullying” or arresting journalists who are trying to do their jobs.
“Now is the time for healing,” Obama said from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where he is on vacation. “Now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson.”
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said that Obama had spoken to him and appealed for peace. Obama called for an “open and transparent” investigation into the police killing and said that he had ordered the FBI and Justice Department to investigate.
“Of course, it’s important to remember how this started,” he said. “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.”
— Kristen Welker and Erin McClam