President Barack Obama appealed for calm and understanding in Ferguson on Monday after a grand jury decided not to indict in the death of Michael Brown, pleading with both residents and police officers to show restraint.
“We are a nation built on the rule of law, so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make,” Obama said.
In a late-night statement from the White House, Obama said it was understandable that some Americans would be “deeply disappointed – even angered” that police officer Darren Wilson wasn’t indicted. Yet he echoed Brown’s parents in calling for any protests to be peaceful, saying that the wishes should be honored as they grieve their son.
At the same time, Obama sought to dispel the notion that race relations in the U.S. have deteriorated, the protests in Ferguson notwithstanding. Urging Americans not to deny recent progress, he called for Americans to turn their attention to ways to bring police and their communities closer together in the wake of Brown’s death.
“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,” Obama said. “It certainly won’t be done by hurting anybody.”
Yet the scene playing out in Ferguson, just minutes after the grand jury’s announcement, stood in stark contrast to Obama’s calls for calm. As Obama spoke live from the White House briefing room, television networks showed Obama on one side of the screen, and violent demonstrations in Ferguson on the other.
“This is not just an issue for Ferguson, this is an issue for America,” Obama said. “There are still problems and communities of color aren’t just making this up.”