Tuesday at Copernicus Community Center in Chicago, IL, President Barack Obama addressed the riots and protests going on throughout the country in reaction to the grand jury announcement that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will not face charges for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by justifying the anger as, “It’s rooted in reality, ” but condemning the violence as non-productive.
Partial transcript as follows:
A grand jury made a decision yesterday that upset a lot of people. And as I said last night, the frustrations that we have seen, are not just about a particular incident. They have deep roots in many communities of color, who have a sense that our laws are not always being enforced uniformly or fairly. That may not be true everywhere. And it’s certainly not true for the vast majority of law enforcement officials, but that’s an impression that folks have and it’s not just made up. It’s rooted in reality.
Now as I said last night, there are productive ways of responding. And expressing those frustrations and there are destructive ways of responding. Burning buildings, torching cars, destroying property, putting people at risk, that’s destructive and there’s no excuse for it. Those are criminal acts. People should be prosecuted if they engage in criminal ablgs. But what we also saw, although it doesn’t get as much attention in the media, was people gathering in overwhelmingly peaceful protests, here in Chicago, in New York, in Los Angeles, other cities. We have scene young people who are organizing and people beginning to have real conversations about how do we change the situation so that there’s more trust between law enforcement and some of these communities. And those are are necessary conversations to have.
We’re here to talk about immigration, but part of what makes America this remarkable place is, being American doesn’t mean you have to look a certain way or have a certain last name or come from a certain place, it has to do with a commitment to ideals, a belief in certain values, and if any part of the american community doesn’t feel welcomed or treated fairly, that’s something that puts all of us at risk. And we all have to be concerned about it. So my message to those people who are constructively moving forward, trying to organize, mobilize and ask hard, important questions about how we improve the situation, I want all those folks to know that their president is going to work with them.
Separate and apart from the particular circumstances in Ferguson, of which I am careful not to speak to, because it’s not my job as president to comment on ongoing investigations and specific cases, but the frustrations people have generally, those are rooted in some hard truths that have to be addressed. Those who are prepared to work constructively, your president will work with you. And a lot of folks, I believe in law enforcement and a lot of folks in city halls, and governor’s offices across the country, want to work with you as well.
So as part of that, I have instructed attorney general Eric Holder not just to investigate what happened in Ferguson, but also identify specific steps we can take together to set up a series of regional meetings focused on building trust in our communities. And next week we’ll bring together state and local officials and law enforcement and community leaders and favorite leaders to start identifying very specific steps that we can take to make sure that law enforcement is fair and is being applied equally to every person in this country. And we know certain things work, we know that if we train police properly, that that improves policing and makes people feel that the system is fair.