President Obama urged “calm” and “peace” Thursday on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, where protesters have clashed with authorities over the police shooting last weekend of unarmed black teen Michael Brown.
“Let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family,” Obama said from Martha’s Vineyard, where he is vacationing, adding that “now’s the time for healing.”
Obama spoke with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, who has faced criticism over his reaction to the fallout of the shooting death. “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,” Obama said. The president called Nixon a “good man and a fine governor.”
More than a dozen people were arrested Wednesday, including two journalists and a Missouri elected official, after police clad in riot gear used tear gas and smoke grenades against protesters. The Ferguson Police Department has been criticized for what many call a disproportionate response to the unrest on the ground.
“There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting,” Obama said. “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,” Obama added.