President Obama called for peace on the streets of Ferguson after the controversial grand jury decision, focusing on both sides of the debate while reminding the United States of the racial disparity that still existed in America.
“The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color,” he said. “Some of this is the result of the legacy of race in this country, and this is tragic because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates.”
Obama explained that the controversy was not just an issue for Ferguson but for America.
Obama referred to “tremendous progress” in race relations, citing his own experience as the nation’s first black president as an example.
“I have witnessed that in my own life, and to deny that progress I think is to deny America’s capacity for change,” he said.
“But what is also true is that there are still problems, and communities of color aren’t just making this up,” Obama added, pointing to “issues in which the law too often is being applied in a discriminatory fashion.”
Obama said that it was important for Americans not to ignore these issues or deny that they existed but to instead work for change.
“We do have work to do here; we shouldn’t try to paper it over,” he said.
Obama also sternly advised citizens in Ferguson not to create violence by reacting destructively but to focus on peaceful action.
“That won’t be done by throwing bottles; that won’t be done by smashing car windows. That won’t be done by using this as an excuse to vandalize property, and certainly won’t be done by hurting anybody.”
The president called for police officers to show “care and restraint” while policing the protesters, reminding Americans that they “put their lives on the line for us every single day.”
“They’ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those that break the law,” he said.
Obama also encouraged the media to act responsibly in the chaotic aftermath of the decision, saying that they had a “responsibility” to focus on Michael Brown’s parents, as well as the community leaders, activists, and civil rights leaders.
Obama admitted that there would “inevitably be some negative reaction” that “would make for good TV” but encouraged Americans to focus on the those working to make a difference.
When asked by reporters if he planned to travel to Ferguson, Obama replied.
“Let’s take a look and see how things go there.”