President Barack Obama strongly denounced violence that occurred during demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, and called for prosecutions against those committing “criminal acts” Tuesday night.
“Burning buildings, torching cars, destroying property, putting people at risk — that’s destructive and there’s no excuse for it. Those are criminal acts. And people should be prosecuted if they engage in criminal acts,” Obama said before giving a speech on immigration in Chicago, Illinois.
Protesters stormed the streets of Ferguson Monday night, after a grand jury declined to indict the white police officer, Darren Wilson, who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown last August. Wilson has said he acted in self-defence, but protesters disagree and argue the killing is part of a larger problem of police discrimination.
The demonstration quickly turned violent with numerous businesses and cars torched by the crowd. More than 60 protesters were arrested and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced he would deploy over two thousand National Guard troops to keep order Tuesday evening.
Obama said it would be inappropriate for him to address the specifics of Wilson’s case. However, as he did in a speech following the verdict, Obama spoke generally about his sympathies with the community’s broader frustrations. He said he ordered Attorney General Eric Holder to look into improving police training and diversity across the country.
“The frustrations that people have generally, those are rooted in some hard truths that have to be addressed. And so those who are prepared to work constructively, your president will work with you. A lot of folks, I believe, in law enforcement, and a lot of people in city halls, and governors’ offices around the country want to work with you as a well,” Obama said.
While he noted he understands why many are upset by the situation, Obama said he has “no sympathy at all for destroying your own communities.”
“The bottom line is nothing of significance, nothing of benefit, results from destructive acts. I’ve never seen a civil rights law, or a healthcare law, or an immigration bill result because a car got burnt,” he said. “Take the long-term, lasting route of working with me and governors and state officials to bring about some real change. And to those who think that what happened in Ferguson is an excuse for violence, I do not have any sympathy for that.”
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