WATCH: President Obama Condemns Violence and Vandalism in Ferguson, MO; Calls for ‘Healing and Justice’ in Death of Michael Brown

President Barack Obama said Thursday there is “no excuse” for violence against police or protestors in Ferguson, Mo., where intense clashes have broken out following the shooting death by police of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

In his first public statement on the death and subsequent violence, Obama appealed for justice and calm, calling on all sides to deescalate a tense situation that has embroiled the town in violence for five days. “I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by the images that we’ve seen in the heartland of our country,” Obama said.

Earlier this week, Obama tasked Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice to begin an independent investigation of Brown’s death. “I made clear to the Attorney General that we should do what is necessary to help determine exactly what happened and to see that justice is done,” Obama said. He was briefed by Holder on Thursday morning on the status of the investigation.

Obama faulted local police for their secrecy surrounding the shooting, as well as the excessive violence used against peaceful protestors. “When something like this happens, the local authorities, including the police, have a responsibility to be open and transparent about how they are investigating that death and how they are protecting the people in their communities,” Obama said. “There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting. There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights.”

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