President Barack Obama made a plea for calm in the Missouri town of Ferguson and promised a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of a black teenager by police.
“I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by images we’ve seen in the heartland of our country,” Obama said in Edgartown, Massachusetts, where he is vacationing.
“Now’s the time for healing,” he said. “Now’s the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson. Now’s the time for an open and transparent process to see that justice is done.”
Unrest has gripped the predominantly black St. Louis suburb since the unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, was killed during a confrontation with police officers on Aug. 9.
The response by St. Louis County police to protests and looting has drawn rebuke from across the U.S. as heavily armed officers in military gear and riding in armored vehicles have tried to clear the streets.
Obama said “there is never an excuse for violence against police” and that police likewise must show restraint when dealing with peaceful protests.
He said the Federal Bureau of Investigation will join in the investigation of the circumstances of the shooting.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, said in a statement that the worsening situation is “deeply troubling and does not represent who we are as Missourians or as Americans.” Nixon is scheduled to speak at 3:30 Washington time.
U.S. Representative William Lacy Clay, a Democrat whose district includes Ferguson, said today that Nixon plans to pull the county police out of the situation.
Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill urged local authorities to “de-militarize” the situation.
“This kind of response by the police has become the problem instead of the solution,” McCaskill, a Democrat, said in a statement. “I obviously respect law enforcement’s work to provide public safety, but my constituents are allowed to have peaceful protests, and the police need to respect that right and protect that right.”
Police say the 18-year-old had fought the officer over his weapon, while Ferguson residents say Brown was shot while putting his hands up in surrender.