President Obama addressed the country after a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. Obama said, “This isn’t just an issue for Ferguson. It’s an issue for America.”
Video of the president:
The president said that either outcome would be a source of disagreement. Obama said that the angry reaction was understandable, then asked for protesters to display their feelings peacefully. The president quoted Michael Brown’s parents and told the American people to honor their wishes. Obama also called on the Ferguson Police Department to show care and restraint in dealing with protesters.
President Obama stressed that police need to work with the community, not against the community. Obama discussed the reality of the deep distrust between the police and communities of color. He said that he had instructed Attorney General Holder to work with law enforcement and communities to build better relationships.
The president said that this isn’t just an issue for Ferguson. It’s an issue for America. The president said that it was true that there are still problems and that communities of color aren’t making it up. The president said that progress won’t come by throwing bottles, smashing car windows, vandalizing property, and hurting anyone. The president talked about ways that concerns can be channeled constructively and destructively. The president said, “There’s never an excuse for violence.”
Obama said that he might go to Ferguson after things calm down, and he also said that the media has a responsibility not only to focus on the negative reaction. The president repeated that real progress is possible, and said, “We need to lift up that kind of constructive dialog that has taken place.”
President Obama is correct. People have a right to protest, but when people protest and the issue goes away until the next unarmed person of color is killed, we make no progress towards change. The media do have a responsibility to tell the whole story, but the sensationalistic mainstream press will almost certainly focus on the violence.
How many people have to have justice denied before the country engages in a substantive discussion about the rigged nature of our system? A small number of people who are interested in violence make everyone look bad, and law enforcement overreaction only adds gasoline to the fire.
Anger and disappointment have boiled over, but after the rage subsides, the real problems that led to the killing of Michael Brown will remain.