President Barack Obama late Monday night urged calm from protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, moments after a county prosecutor announced that a grand jury had declined to indict white officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager earlier this year.
Obama spoke in the White House briefing room as protests started to flare in the streets of Missouri, and cable channels split his statement side by side with images of tear gas already being dispersed among crowds in Ferguson.
"We are a nation built on the rule of law," Obama said. And so we must accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make. … I join Michael’s parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully."
St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced Monday night that a grand jury had cleared Wilson of criminal wrongdoing in the shooting death of the 18-year-old Brown earlier this year. The initial aftermath of the shooting incited days of at-times violent protests and months of racial unrest across the nation.
Wilson will not face charges brought by the state, based on the decision from the grand jury. But a federal civil-rights investigation into the shooting is still ongoing. McCulloch said the grand jury deliberated for two days after meeting for 25 days over three months before deciding against an indictment.
Obama read aloud part of a statement from Brown's family and urged protesters to honor their wishes of peace.
"We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation," Obama said. "We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson. This is an issue for America."
After he read his statement, a reporter asked Obama if he would visit the Missouri city. He said only he would "take a look and see how things are going."
Leading up to the anticipated decision from the grand jury, Obama posited the same message to protesters.
"First and foremost, keep protests peaceful," he said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. "You know, 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."
Brett LoGiurato is the senior national political correspondent at Fusion, where he covers all things 2016. He'll give you everything you need to know about politics, with a healthy side of puns.