President Obama urged calm in Ferguson, Mo., in remarks Thursday on the escalating situation between police and protestors following the death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown at the hands of a police officer.
"I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by the images we've seen in the heartland of our country as police have clashed with people protesting. Today I'd like us all to take a step back and think about how we're going to be moving forward," the president said. "This morning I received a thorough update on the situation from Attorney General Eric Holder and have been in communication with his team. I've already tasked the Department of Justice and the FBI to independently investigate the death of Michael Brown along with local officials on the ground."
The president added the Department of Justice was working with local authorities to find ways to maintain peaceful protests while avoiding "unnecessary escalation."
Obama also spoke Thursday with Jay Nixon, the governor of Missouri, who is traveling to Ferguson to make sure public safety is maintained.
"I also just spoke with Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri. 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. He's going to be traveling to Ferguson. He's a good man and a fine governor, and I'm confident that working together he's going to be able to communicate his desire to make sure that justice is done and his desire to make sure that public safety is maintained in an appropriate way."
Reflecting on the death of Michael Brown, which the president called "heartbreaking," Obama urged a transparent investigation from local police into the teen's death.
"Of course, 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. 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.
Obama said "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 protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights."
Speaking on the arrest of two journalists, the president said police should not be arresting journalist or "bullying" journalists "who are just trying to do their jobs."
The president concluded by urging calm in Ferguson and saying, "Now's the time for healing," adding to let the investigation into Brown's death run its course to see that "justice is done."
"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," he said. "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."
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Andrew Kaczynski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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