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Obama appeals for 'peace and calm' in Ferguson

By Julie Pace, Associated Press

Published: Thu, Aug. 14 2:15 p.m. MDT

 A man watches as police walk through a cloud of smoke during a clash with protesters Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.

A man watches as police walk through a cloud of smoke during a clash with protesters Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.

(Jeff Roberson, Associated Press)

EDGARTOWN, Mass. — Appealing for "peace and calm," President Barack Obama on Thursday said there is no excuse for excessive use of force by police in a St. Louis suburb against crowds protesting the death of an unarmed black teenager shot by a white police officer. At the same time, he said there was no excuse for violence against police.

Obama appeared to try to balance his comments as he addressed the turbulent aftermath of the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was killed Saturday.

Obama said there was "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 also criticized police for arresting two journalists covering the racially-charged clashes.

"Put simply, we all need to hold ourselves to a high standard, particularly those of us in positions of authority," Obama said in his first in-person remarks on the racially-charged situation in Ferguson, Missouri. He spoke from Martha's Vineyard, the Massachusetts island where he is in the midst of a two-week vacation.

Obama said he had asked the Justice Department and FBI to investigate Brown's death. The president said he had also spoken Thursday morning with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who has faced criticism for not doing more to control the violence.

Obama defended the Democratic governor, calling him "a good man, a fine governor."

Police in Ferguson have stood by their use of tear gas and smoke bombs to repel protesters, saying they took those actions to disperse a large crowd after some people threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at officers. Obama also urged the protesters to show restraint, saying 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 are varying accounts about what led to Brown's death.

Police say that after encountering Brown and another man on the street, one of the men assaulted an officer and struggled with him over his weapon. During the struggled, Brown was shot multiple times.

But a man who says he was with Brown during the shooting has told a much different account. Dorian Johnson says the officer grabbed his friend's neck, then tried to pull him into the car before brandishing his weapon and firing. Johnson and another witness both say Brown was on the street with his hands raised when the officer fired at him repeatedly.

"I know emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened," Obama said. "But let's remember that we're all part of one American family, we are united in common values and that includes the belief in equality under the law, respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protests."

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1. worf
Mcallen, TX,
Aug. 14, 2014

Eighty people shot in Chicago over one weekend, but one in Ferguson brings out this kind of outcry?

Seems like a set up for violence.

2. patriot
Cedar Hills, UT,
Aug. 14, 2014

what bothers me about this is the pattern with the Obama / Holder administration that seems to point to "special" treatment of blacks compared to non-blacks in America. Every time a black man is killed Eric Holder jumps into the middle of it looking and searching for some form of racism and if none exits then he invents it. This has been the worst period of government heavy handed tactics I can ever remember and all for race sake. If this kid would have been white there would be no government intervention - zero. How disgusting and sad. So glad when this Obama period is over.

3. Tolstoy
salt lake, UT,
Aug. 14, 2014

@worf

right because acts of violence by criminals is the same as a police related shooting. Criminals are just that were as police officers are entrusted with the publics safety, not hardly the same thing. Having said that I do think people need to wait for the investigations which have been started to conclude before condemning this officer

4. Liberal Ted
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 14, 2014

Why is it the black & Hispanic community goes nuts every time something like this happens? How can they justify committing crimes, while protesting a crime? It boils down to this is an opportunity to steal and plunder while there is civil disobedience. If you get caught, you play the race card. But, now that we are a nation of minorities including whites; you can't play that card anymore.

I think there a genuine people in the group that are looking for the truth and want to do it peacefully. However, a good number of these folks come in just to stir things up.

Where was Obama when Tea Party members were being threatened by the Justice Department and the IRS? Why didn't he step in and tell is staff to back off and that the Tea Party has freedom of speech?

No matter what you think of Bush. One thing President Bush did, is accept criticism and allowed people to express their opinions and thoughts about him. Regardless of their position. If you say anything about barack, the regime comes down on and tries to silence you through threats and strong arm. The Chicago way.

5. worf
Mcallen, TX,
Aug. 14, 2014

@Tolstoy,

People are so quick jumping to conclusion.

Very seldom do we ever get an accurate report on anything!

Neither you, or myself really know what happened, and we haven't heard from the police officer.

You can justify the protests, and damage being made, but I'm holding back.