President Barack Obama on Thursday appealed for “peace and calm” on the streets of a St. Louis suburb besieged by violent clashes between police and crowds protesting the shooting death of an unarmed teenager.
“I know emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened,” Obama said in his first in-person remarks about the tense standoff in the Missouri suburb. “But let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family, we are united in common values and that includes the belief in equality under the law, respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protests.”
Obama, speaking from the Massachusetts island where he’s on a two-week vacation, said there was no excuse for excessive force by police in the aftermath of Saturday’s shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. He said he had asked the Justice Department and FBI to investigate the incident.
The president said he had also spoken Thursday morning with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who has faced criticism for not doing more to control the violence. Obama defended the Democratic governor calling him “a good man, a fine governor.”
Police have defended their use of tear gas and smoke bombs to repel protesters, saying they took those actions to disperse a large crowd after some people threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at officers.
The governor of Missouri has announced the St. Louis County police will be removed from their duties policing Ferguson, according to published reports. Nixon, missing from most of the troubles in Ferguson after the killing of 18-year-old Mike Brown by police, told Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Missouri) that county police will no longer handle the protests in Ferguson.
This is expected to make it easier for federal government or state government to step in.
“The worsening situation in Ferguson is deeply troubling, and does not represent who we are as Missourians or as Americans,” Nixon said in a statement. “While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern. I have been closely monitoring the situation and will continue to be in communication with local leaders, and I will be in north St. Louis County Thursday.
As governor, I am committed to ensuring the pain of last weekend’s tragedy does not continue to be compounded by this ongoing crisis. Once again, I ask that members of the community demonstrate patience and calm while the investigation continues, and I urge law enforcement agencies to keep the peace and respect the rights of residents and the press during this difficult time.”
Anonymous, the “hacktivist” collective whose #OpFerguson has been reporting and disseminating information via its Twitter account has also released personal information on Ferguson’s police chief and has identified the shooter.
Though no one has yet confirmed the information, Anonymous has said that the officer involved is Bryan P. Willman. His Facebook page has also been released. As yet, there is no confirmation but his name has been widely disseminated via social media.
UPDATE: The Twitter account belonging to those identifying themselves as Anonymous was suspended by Twitter earlier today. St. Louis police told CNN that the wrong man was identified, but have yet who announce who the officer was who shot Mike Brown.
Anonymous, a shadowy group of cyber activists who have disrupted corporate and government websites around the world that they deem are harmful or insensitive to the needs of the people, has been acting on behalf of Ferguson’s citizens in the civil unrest. They have threatened not just to disrupt email and the websites of the St. Louis county police department, but also to keep releasing information on the police involved. These DOS or denial of service attacks are part of the Anonymous M.O. to disrupt government and/or corporations.
While its impossible to know who is behind Anonymous and to confirm all of the information they’ve put out, they do seem to have people on the ground and are sharing photo, video and Twitter feeds of those directly involved in the protests. They have called for peaceful, non—violent protests in seven American cities – New York, Detroit, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Boston, New Orleans and Los Angeles tomorrow, August 14th.