ATLANTA (TheBlaze/AP) -- Speaking at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta - the church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached - U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday that he will soon unveil long-planned Justice Department guidance aimed at ending racial profiling.
While Holder's comments were mostly well-received by the audience, a group of people interrupted his speech at one point with chants of and were escorted out.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom! ... No justice, no peace!” the protesters chanted, a message heard routinely during Ferguson protests.
Watch some of the raw video footage below:
But Holder applauded their "genuine expression of concern and involvement" and actually got a standing ovation from the crowd.
"There will be a tendency on the part of some to condemn what we just saw, but we should not. What we saw there was a genuine expression of concern and involvement," he said. "And it is through that level of involvement, that level of concern and I hope a level of perseverance and commitment, that change ultimately will come. And so let me be clear, let me be clear, I ain't mad atcha, all right?"
Tensions between police and the community in Ferguson boiled over into violent confrontations in August after a white police officer shot a black teenager. Protests turned violent again last week after a grand jury declined to indict officer Darren Wilson in the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder gestures as he speaks to members of the community during an interfaith service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church where The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, in Atlanta. Holder traveled to Atlanta to meet with law enforcement and community leaders for the first in a series of regional meetings around the country. The president asked Holder to set up the meetings in the wake of clashes between protesters and police in Ferguson, Missouri. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
"In the coming days, I will announce updated Justice Department guidance regarding profiling by federal law enforcement. This will institute rigorous new standards - and robust safeguards - to help end racial profiling, once and for all," Holder said. "This new guidance will codify our commitment to the very highest standards of fair and effective policing."
Holder, who plans to leave the position once a successor is confirmed, has identified civil rights as a cornerstone priority for the Justice Department and speaks frequently about what he calls inequities in the treatment of minorities in the criminal justice system. He has targeted sentences for nonviolent drug crimes that he says are overly harsh and disproportionately affect black defendants and has promoted alternatives to prison for non-violent offenders.
Last year, as part of the Justice Department's "Smart on Crime" initiative, he instructed federal prosecutors to stop charging many nonviolent drug defendants with offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences - punishments that he said were contributing to overcrowded prisons. The Justice Department has also broadened the criteria for inmates seeking clemency in hopes of encouraging potentially thousands more inmates to apply, and Holder backed changes in federal sentencing guideline ranges that could result in tens of thousands of drug prisoners becoming eligible for early release.
Holder also has publicly discussed the need to ease tensions between police departments and minority communities. The Justice Department has also targeted flawed police departments, initiating roughly 20 investigations of local police agencies - including Ferguson - in the past five years. A new pilot program announced weeks after the Ferguson shooting will study racial bias in American cities and recommend ways to reduce the problem.