President Obama spoke about the Michael Brown case and race issues in America less than an hour after St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch announced that a grand jury had found “no probable cause exists” to file any indictments against police officer Darren Wilson in Brown’s death.
McCulloch made that announcement in an evening news conference in Clayton, Mo.
“It’s an outcome that, either way, was going to be the subject of intense disagreement,” Obama said.
He added, “We need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make.”
“There are Americans who agree with it, and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed — even angry,” Obama said. “It’s an understandable reaction.”
Obama then quoted comments by Michael Brown Sr. in which he said that he didn’t want his son’s death to be in vain — but instead to lead to positive change that makes life better for everyone in the St. Louis region.
The president also called on law enforcement in the area to “show care and restraint in managing peaceful protests that may occur.”
Saying that many Americans are committed to working for improving the U.S. criminal justice system, Obama said, “We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson — this is an issue for America.”
“We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades. I have witnessed that in my own life, and to deny that progress, I think is to deny America’s capacity for change.
“But what is also true is that there are still problems — and communities of color aren’t just making these problems up.
“Separating that from this particular decision, there are issues in which the law too often feels as if it is being applied in a discriminatory fashion.”
After speaking for some 10 minutes, the president took a quick question before leaving the podium.
Saying that he wasn’t yet planning to visit Ferguson, he suggested waiting to see how things go in the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision.
Obama also called for attention to be paid to peaceful activists and Brown’s parents, instead of focusing primarily on those who resort to violence.
He said the media bear some of that responsibility, acknowledging that while violence and unrest “make for good TV,” there are more stories to be told.