President Barack Obama declined to answer whether he would go to Ferguson, Missouri, after announcing that Attorney General Eric Holder would travel there Wednesday.
At a White House press conference Monday, Ann Compton, who will be retiring from ABC News after 41 years, asked whether anyone in Ferguson has asked Obama to visit the city or if Obama intends to do so.
Obama refused to answer it and instead seized the opportunity to filibuster about his My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which will be his signature project once he leaves the White House. He also touted the Justice Department’s criminal justice reforms. For instance, the Obama administration has warned businesses to go easy on criminal background checks of job applicants.
Obama discussed disparities in the criminal justice system and even mentioned that “young African American and Hispanic boys tend to get suspended from school at much higher rates than other kids, even when they’re in elementary school.” The Obama administration has also insisted that school districts suspend fewer black and Hispanic students.
Obama said that there needs to be discussions about whether “young black men” commit crimes because “of the poverty they were born into or the lack of opportunity or the school systems that failed them or what have you.” However, he said, “if they commit a crime, then they need to be prosecuted because every community has an interest in public safety.”
“And if you go into the African American community or the Latino community, some of the folks who are most intent on making sure that criminals are dealt with are people that have been preyed upon by them,” he continued.
Obama said he met with Holder earlier in the day and reported the Justice Department has decided to open “an independent federal civil rights investigation into the death of Michael Brown.” He will also be meeting with other leaders in the community whose support is so critical to bringing about peace and calm in Ferguson.
He said the Justice Department is “devoting substantial resources to that investigation” and Holder will travel to Ferguson on Wednesday “to meet with the FBI agents and DOJ personnel conducting the federal criminal investigation and he will receive an update from them on their progress.”
Obama said though he understood “the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving into that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos.”
“It undermines rather than advancing justice,” he said.
Obama also said the right of the press to report must be “vigilantly safeguarded, especially in moments like these,” and “there’s no excuse for excessive force by police or any action that denies people the right to protest peacefully.”