President Barack Obama Tuesday said people upset about the outcome of the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury findings have a choice between behaving constructively and destructively.
“Those who think what happened in Ferguson is an excuse for violence, I have no sympathy for that,” Obama said to applause. “I have no sympathy at all for destroying your own communities. For the overwhelming majority who just feel frustrated and pained because they get a sense that some individuals aren’t treated fairly or some individuals aren’t seen as worthy as others, I understand that.”
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about Ferguson, Mo., before speaking at the Copernicus Community Center in Chicago to discuss immigration reform, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
But he also said his administration would be announcing measures to ensure law enforcement is applied equally to every person in the country.
Obama said the frustrations reflected Monday night “have deep roots in many communities of color who have a sense that our laws are not always being enforced uniformly and fairly.”
“That might not be true everywhere and it’s certainly not true for the vast majority of law enforcement officials, but that’s an impression folks have and it’s not just made up, it’s rooted in realities that have existed in this country for a long time,” Obama said.
Obama spoke at the Copernicus Community Center in Chicago, where he was scheduled to speak about his executive action to shield about 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation. But first addressed the pressing happenings from Ferguson that occurred the previous night.
Obama met with Attorney General Eric Holder earlier Tuesday about what future steps to take in the aftermath of the grand jury decision not to indict white Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of the black un-armed teenager Michael Brown.
He stressed, “Nothing of benefit results from destructive acts.”
“Burning buildings, torching cars, destroying property, putting people at risk, that’s destructive and there is no excuse for it. Those are criminal acts,” Obama said. “People should be prosecuted if they engage in criminal acts. But what we also saw – although it didn’t get as much attention in the media, is people gathering in overwhelmingly peaceful protests, here in Chicago, New York, other cities.”
Law enforcement officials from across the country will gather in Washington next week to talk about "best practices," Obama said. Holder will be visiting multiple cities in his time remaining as attorney general to talk to police departments about these policies, said White House spokesman Eric Schultz earlier Tuesday.
“We know a police force that is representative of the community it is serving makes a difference,” Obama told the Chicago crowd. “The key now is to lift up those best practices that work, city by city, state by state, county by county across the country because this is not just a Ferguson problem, it’s an American problem.”
White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett talked to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, Monday night and Tuesday morning, to get updates on what was happening, Schultz said.
“If any part of the American community doesn’t feel welcome or treated fairly, that’s something that puts all of us at risk and we all have to be concerned about,” the president said. “So my message to those people who are constructively moving forward, trying to organize, mobilize and ask hard questions about how we improve the situation, I want all those folks to know that their president is going to work with them.”