As St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch concluded his press conference announcing the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, the White House announced that President Obama would be delivering a statement. Amid thus far minor violence and vandalism between civilians and police, President Obama took to the podium shortly after 10 pm Eastern time to urge calm, ask for productive action, and strike a needle-threading balance between recognizing the legitimate distrust that exists between the black community and police, and praise for the risks law enforcement officers take. Here’s video of his statement, along with selected quotes:
“We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation. The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country, and this is tragic, because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates.”
“…We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson. this is an issue for America. We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades. I have witnessed that in my own life. And to deny that progress, I think, is to deny America’s capacity for change.”
“But what is also true is that there are still problems, and communities of color aren’t just making these problems up. Separating that from this particular decision, there are issues in which the law, too often, feels as if it is being applied in a discriminatory fashion. I don’t think that’s the norm. I don’t think that’s true for the majority of communities, or the vast majority of law enforcement officials. But these are real issues, and we have to pick them up and not deny them or try to tamp them down. What we need to do is understand them and figure out how do we make more progress.”
Following his remarks, the President was asked if he would be traveling to Ferguson once things calm down there. “Let’s take a look and see how things are going,” the President replied, before again urging calm, and urging the media not to focus on incidents of sporadic violence.
“There is inevitably going to be some negative reaction, and it will make for good TV,” President Obama said. “But what we want to do is make sure that we’re also focusing on those who can offer the kind of real progress,that we know is what the vast majority of people in Ferguson, the St. Louis region, in Missouri, and around the country are looking for.”
Here’s the remainder of the President’s appearance in the Brady Briefing Room tonight: