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Obama talks about Ferguson protests, sending in attorney general

Posted: Aug 18, 2014 4:26 PM by Annie Hammock, KOMU 8 Interactive Director
Updated: Aug 18, 2014 6:27 PM

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COLUMBIA - President Obama is sending Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson, where both the Justice Department and the FBI are investigating the shooting death of Michael Brown.

"We are devoting substantial resources to the investigation," said Obama at a Monday afternoon news conference.

He said the community in Ferguson is "rightly hurting" and looking for answers, but that a "small minority" of protestors is damaging the cause, not advancing it.

"Let's seek to heal, rather than wound," he said.

The area around where the unarmed teenager was shot by police has been a scene of unrest since Aug. 9. Many community leaders have criticized the police for taking a heavy hand.

A reporter asked Obama whether police forces in general have become overly militarized.

There was a turning point after 9/11 when members of Congress wanted to make sure police forces "had the resources to deal with terrorist threats," Obama said.

He called the build-up "useful" in some ways, but said police forces "need to think about whether the stuff they are purchasing is actually what they need," Obama said.

Community safety needs to be "vigilantly safeguarded," he said, but doing so is no excuse for abusive behavior.

"We've got to use this moment to seek out the shared humanity that's laid bare by this moment," he said.

The tension in Ferguson is rooted in a racial divide that dates back several centuries, Obama said.

"Part of the ongoing challenge of perfecting our union has involved dealing with communities who feel left behind," he said.

Many African-American and Hispanic males often find themselves isolated and many are more likely to end up in jail or the justice system rather than in college or in jobs, Obama said.

"What we have to do is make sure that the cause of justice and fair administration of the law is being brought to bear" in Ferguson and elsewhere, Obama said.

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