WASHINGTON D.C. (AA) – U.S. President Barack Obama has again appealed for calm in Ferguson, the American town at the heart of the country’s latest protests over the killing of a young black man, and said there is “no excuse” for either police violence or looting.
In a televised address, he 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.
“And here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground.”
Saturday’s killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown has brought racial tension in Ferguson, a suburb of St Louis, Missouri, to the fore, with many black residents complaining of their treatment at the hands of the town’s mostly white police force.
Brown was shot by a police officer as he walked with a friend. Details of the fatal encounter remain unclear but police claim Brown was shot in a scuffle while protesters say he was gunned down while he had his hands in the air.
Obama added that both sides should hold themselves to a “high standard,” especially those in positions of power. “I know that emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened,” he said. “But let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family.”
Authorities have refused to release the name of the officer involved, citing threats on the officer’s life and public safety concerns.
Although the largest rallies have remained peaceful, violent clashes between protesters and police have occurred at night.
At least 10 people were arrested Wednesday night in Ferguson. It is unclear how many remain in police custody. Two journalists who were covering the protests, from The Washington Post and The Huntington Post, were also arrested but quickly released.
On Tuesday Obama said that Brown’s death was “heartbreaking” and called for calm. The FBI and the Justice Department are investigating the case.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Ferguson has said the division between the police and the community represents a national problem.
James Knowles denied a history of racial tension in his town in an interview with news network MSNBC.
He said: “We hope that from here on out we can continue to work with young men in our community and other communities to have better relations not only with the community, but with our law enforcement officers and law enforcement officers across the country.
“Because this is not a Ferguson problem, this is a national problem.”
Knowles defended police who have been involved in clashes with crowds of mostly black protesters for five nights and who have been accused of excessive force.
He told the broadcaster: “I am confident that all the law enforcement agencies that are participating are professionals. And if there are some videos that show someone losing their temper in a highly stressful situation, I am sure they’re under a great deal of stress.”
Meanwhile, human rights activists launched a social media campaign using the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtag.
Brown’s death echoes that of Trayvon Martin, who was killed in an altercation with George Zimmerman two years ago. That case and Zimmerman’s acquittal sparked public indignation and demonstrations across the country.
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