WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama spoke out on Monday about the ongoing situation in Ferguson, Missouri, where protesters have been demonstrating since the Aug. 9 death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager shot and killed by a police officer.
He reiterated that the Justice Department has opened an independent investigation into Brown's killing, and announced that Attorney General Eric Holder will head to Ferguson Wednesday to meet with federal investigators.
"We have all seen images of protesters and law enforcement in the streets. It's clear that the vast majority of people are peacefully protesting. What's also clear is that a small minority of individuals are not," Obama said.
"While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving into that anger by looting or by carrying guns or by attacking the police only serves to stir tension … it undermines rather than advances justice."
Obama acknowledged that the Ferguson community is "hurting" and said residents are rightly looking for answers in the wake of Brown's shooting. But he said he had to be "careful about not prejudging" before investigations are completed. He also touched on the issue simmering beneath Brown's shooting: the racial divide.
"In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and left as objects to fear," he said, adding, "Part of the ongoing challenge of perfecting our union has involved dealing with communities that feel left behind."
Given the stunning images that have been coming out of Ferguson, showing police riding tanks and armed in riot gear, he said it may be time to re-examine a Pentagon program that provides surplus military weapons to police departments.
"There is no excuse for excessive force by police," Obama said.
"I think it's probably useful for us to review how the funding has gone, how local law enforcement has used grant dollars, to make sure that what they're purchasing is stuff that they actually need," He added. "There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement, and we don't want those lines blurred."
The president made his remarks following a briefing on the situation by Holder. He made similar comments last Thursday, urging calm amid the unrest in the St. Louis suburb.
Holder said later that the Justice Department is committing its "full resources" to the probe into Brown's death. On Monday alone, he said, more than than 40 FBI agents conducted interviews with Ferguson residents. The department plans to carry out its own independent autopsy of Brown.
“I realize there is tremendous interest in the facts of the incident that led to Michael Brown’s death, but I ask for the public’s patience as we conduct this investigation," Holder said in a statement. "The selective release of sensitive information that we have seen in this case so far is troubling to me. No matter how others pursue their own separate inquiries, the Justice Department is resolved to preserve the integrity of its investigation."
See below for more updates on the situation in Ferguson: