Vowing to see that “justice is done” for slain teenager Michael Brown, President Obama appealed for calm Thursday from police and demonstrators clashing in Ferguson, Missouri.
“Let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family,” Obama said in a measured, even businesslike, tone from the Martha’s Vineyard resort island where he has been spending a family vacation.
“Now is the time for healing. Now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson. Now is the time for an open and transparent process to see that justice is done,” he added. “Put simply, we all need to hold ourselves to a high standard, particularly those of us in positions of authority.”
The president said that he had received an update on the situation from Attorney General Eric Holder and underlined that federal law-enforcement officials were monitoring the local investigation.
The remarks were the president’s first public words about the crisis in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson that erupted after a police officer shot and killed the unarmed black teenager in a confrontation on Saturday.
“He was 18 years old, and 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.
The president weighed in as the country grappled with stark footage of police in camouflage uniforms, weapons aimed at demonstrators, alongside armored vehicles of the type more often seen in footage from war zones in Iraq or Afghanistan. And he rebuked local officers for detaining two reporters on the scene.
“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,” he said.
Obama spoke after reports that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, planned to announce that St. Louis County police would be removed from duty in Ferguson.
In remarks to clergy in Ferguson, Nixon said he would unveil unspecified “operational shifts” to “the chain of command” at a 3 p.m. press conference. Nixon also said he had just spoken by telephone with Obama.
The president conveyed his and first lady Michelle Obama’s “wishes of peace and justice,” Nixon said, as some in the crowd applauded. “I appreciate greatly his leadership and his tone and his willingness to assist us in any way,” he added.
Local police had said they would investigate the shooting. On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the FBI and attorneys from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division would conduct a “concurrent” investigation.
Obama issued a written statement on Tuesday calling Brown’s death “heartbreaking” and pleading for people to “remember this young man through reflection and understanding.”