President Barack Obama urged residents in Ferguson, Mo. and across the nation late Monday to remain calm after a St. Louis County grand jury decided against indicting white police officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of unarmed lack teenager Michael Brown.
“First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law, and so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury's to make,” Obama said. "There are Americans who agree with it, and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry. But I join Michael's parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully.”
Obama, speaking to reporters in the White House briefing room not long after the grand jury decision was announced, asked police officers in Ferguson “to work with the community, not against the community, to distinguish the handful of people who may use the grand jury's decision as an excuse for violence, distinguish them from the vast majority, who just want their voices heard in terms of how law enforcement and communities of color interact.”
The shooting led to days of rioting, vandalism and looting as well as complaints across the nation that local police have overreacted in the way they are treating residents.
Obama has spoken publicly about the case several times as well as the death of Trayvon Martin, the black Florida teenager killed as he was walking home through a gated community in February 2012.
He reiterated Monday that the United States has work to do to resolve the tension between law enforcement and communities of colors.
“We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson, this is an issue for America,” he said. “We do have work to do here. We shouldn't try to paper it over.”
"We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to the broader problems that we still face as a nation," he said. "The fact is in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color.”
In recent years, Obama started a program called My Brother’s Keeper to empower young black men.
“We know there are things we can do to help,” he said.
When asked whether he would visit Ferguson, Obama said he would make a decision later.