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Obama: Michael Brown Grand Jury Decision Cannot be 'Excuse for Violence'

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President Barack Obama on Friday added his voice to calls for calm in Ferguson, as Missouri and the nation awaits a grand jury’s decision on whether or not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. "First and foremost, keep protests peaceful," Obama urged in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, which is scheduled to air in full Sunday.

The streets of Ferguson erupted into protests, which sometimes spiraled into looting and violent clashes with police, after Brown was shot Aug. 9. The grand jury could deliver their decision on whether to indict Wilson any day, and some Missouri officials fear the anger-fueled turmoil may return.

"This is a country that allows everybody to express their views, allows them to peacefully assemble," Obama said. Citizens have the right "to protest actions that they think are unjust, but using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to rule of law and contrary to who we are," Obama added.

Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday also indirectly said that the people of Ferguson and surrounding areas are entitled to "lend their voice to important causes and discussions," but asked that protesters "do so in a way that respects the gravity of their subject matter." Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr. also appealed to supporters to "lift your voices," but avoid engaging in violence.

IN-DEPTH

— Elisha Fieldstadt

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