Ferguson riots: President Obama condemns violence as the community prepares for more unrest

Mr Obama said: 'Nothing of significance, nothing of benefit results from destructive acts'

President Barack Obama today scolded those responsible for the riots in Ferguson on Monday night, saying, “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 for it.” Speaking to an audience in Chicago, Mr Obama added, “Nothing of significance, nothing of benefit results from destructive acts.”

The President’s comments came a day after a grand jury in St Louis decided not to charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, on 9 August. The announcement on Monday evening set off a frenzy of violence, with at least a dozen buildings gutted by fire, rampant looting and sporadic bursts of gunfire across the St Louis suburb. Scores of people were arrested as police struggled to contain the chaos.

As daylight arrived on Tuesday, many business owners were left to sweep up broken glass and survey the empty shelves – or, in some cases, charred remains – of their premises. Sections of the town were closed by police for the whole day, as Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced that he had sent 2,200 National Guard troops to Ferguson to bolster the local law enforcement response as the town braced for the prospect of another night of unrest.

Video: Watch footage from The Independent's Tim Walker

The rioting has its roots in longstanding tensions between the authorities in Ferguson, who are largely white, and the town’s population, which is predominantly black. The President said he had asked the outgoing US Attorney General, Eric Holder, to set up meetings between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve around the US, in the hope of building trust.

 

“The frustrations that people have… are rooted in hard truths that need to be addressed,” Mr Obama said. “The problem is not just a Ferguson problem; it’s an American problem.” He also welcomed the less dramatic, peaceful protests that occurred on Monday night in response to the grand jury’s decision, in cities including New York and Washington, DC. Of the rioters in Ferguson, he added: “I have no sympathy at all for destroying your own communities.”

Meanwhile, Mr Holder told reporters that he was “disappointed” by the scenes emerging from St Louis. “Acts of violence threaten to drown out those that have legitimate voices,” he said. “The way we’ve made progress in this country is we’ve seen peaceful, nonviolent demonstrations.”

Mr Holder is overseeing a federal probe into the August shooting, to determine whether Officer Wilson intentionally violated Mr Brown’s civil rights. The investigation, he said, “will be conducted rigorously and in a timely manner so that we can move forward as expeditiously as we can to restore trust, to rebuild understanding, and to foster cooperation between law enforcement and community members.”

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