After four nights of tension and violence, President Obama on Thursday called for calm and condemned the actions of police who have turned a St. Louis suburb into a semi-militarized zone.
Obama, speaking from Martha’s Vineyard, sought to calm the town of Ferguson, MO, which has seen violent police clash with angry community members protesting the shooting death of 18-year-old Mike Brown, who was gunned down by an officer on Saturday. HuffPost reporter Ryan J. Reilly and Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery were arrested on Wednesday night, while a camera crew for Al Jazeera America was allegedly hit with tear gas.
“Here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying and arresting reporters who are just doing their jobs,” Obama said. “The local authorities, including police, have a responsibility to be transparent and open.”
The president had stern words for both sides of the conflict.
“There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism and looting,” he 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.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement of his own Thursday, saying he’s “deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message” and that “journalists must not be harassed or prevented from covering a story that needs to be told.”
Meanwhile, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said that the St. Louis County police have been removed from the situation, and they will shift to be more accommodating of protestors.