FERGUSON, MISSOURI — U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday called on protesters in Missouri to “keep protests peaceful” as a grand jury decides whether or not to charge a Ferguson police officer in the high-profile shooting death of an unarmed black teenager.
“I think, first and foremost: keep protests peaceful,” Obama said in an interview with journalist George Stephanopoulos for ABC’s “This Week,” adding: “This is a country that allows everybody to express their views, allows them to peacefully assemble to protest actions that they think are unjust, but using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to rule of law and contrary to who we are.”
The comments were part of a short clip released by ABC News ahead of Sunday’s broadcast.
Authorities in the city of Ferguson in Missouri continue to brace for possible unrest once a grand jury announces its decision whether or not to indict police officer Darren Wilson. The shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson in August led to days of rioting and the grand jury’s decision is believed to be imminent.
Earlier on Friday, a spokesman for the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s office said the grand jury was still in session. “We are in the process of setting up the press conference to announce the decision on the Darren Wilson case. The date, time and location hasn’t been decided as of yet,” spokesman Edward Magee said.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency earlier this week and deployed the Missouri National Guard to Ferguson following reports that some groups may want to cause unrest if Wilson is not indicted. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has also warned that the decision could lead to unrest elsewhere in the country.
The city of Ferguson was the scene of days of rioting, often at night, after white police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed African-American teenager, on August 9. The shooting led to a nationwide debate on race relations and protests in Ferguson, which has a two-third African American majority among citizens but has a majority of white police and politicians.