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Obama: Time to take steps to rebuild trust between communities, law enforcement

Posted at 5:59 PM, Nov 25, 2014

As night fell in Ferguson, Missouri, more National Guard joined officials there to handle any potential violence.

On Monday night, the town was ravaged by rioters who broke into local businesses, set fires, committed theft and harmed others. The actions were in response to the announcement that Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson will not be indicted for killing Michael Brown, with whom he struggled prior to shooting him.

Wilson is white, and Brown is black and was unarmed when the struggle took place. The crowds in Ferguson are mostly protesting the lack of an indictment, and racial tensions are strong there.

Speaking to a crowd in Chicago this evening, President Barack Obama said of the riots that happened Monday "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," he said. "Those are criminal acts, and 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, was people gathering in overwhelmingly peaceful protests here in Chicago, and New York, and Los Angeles and other cities," he said.

"We see young people who are organizing, and people beginning to have real conversations about how do we change the conversation so that there's more trust between law enforcement and some of these communities," Obama said. "Those are necessary conversations to have."

The President said he wants to work with those who want to work constructively to find resolutions for peace, and he has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate what happened in Ferguson and to identify specific steps they may take together to set up a series of regional meetings focused on building trust in communities.

Next week, Obama said, they will bring together state and local officials, law enforcement and community and faith leaders to start identifying those steps. The goal, he said, is to make sure law enforcement is fair and is being applied equally to every person in the country.

"To those who think what happened in Ferguson was an excuse for violence, I have no sympathy for that. I have no sympathy for destroying your own communities."