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Obama calls for police to respect protesters in Ferguson, Missouri

Source: Reuters - Thu, 14 Aug 2014 17:37 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Recasts with Obama comment, police withdrawal)

By Nick Carey and Jeff Mason

FERGUSON, Mo./EDGARTOWN, Mass., Aug 14 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday said that police should respect protesters after four nights of racially charged demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, over the recent police killing of an unarmed black teenager.

"There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting," Obama said a televised remarks.

"There's also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protesters or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their first amendment rights," he said, speaking to the press from Edgartown, Massachusetts near where he is vacationing with his family.

After the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb on Saturday, dozens of protesters have been arrested and the police have used riot gear, tear gas and rubber bullets to break up protests.

There have been peaceful vigils and demonstrations as well as episodes of looting and violence.

Governor Jay Nixon on Thursday also told community members at a church in the St. Louis area that "over the next few hours we are going to be making some shifts so that people will be ... safe." He did not specify what his steps would be made.

The U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI and the St. Louis County prosecutor's office are all investigating Brown's death. Police have said Brown struggled with the officer who shot and killed him.

Some witnesses have said Brown held up his hands and was surrendering when he was shot multiple times in the head and chest.

Two reporters were among the arrests on Wednesday night during the fourth night of protests.

Obama said "here in the United States of America police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs."

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles told CNN: "We will make sure that reporters are treated in a proper fashion because we want you to give the entire story." (Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Editing by Susan Heavey)

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