President Obama today gave his longest and most detailed statements about the week long clashes between protesters and heavily armed police in Ferguson, Missouri, saying he was open to the idea of reviewing the collection of federal programs that supply local police departments with surplus military gear. “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 they actually need,” a visibly tired Obama said at a White House press conference this afternoon, after cutting his vacation short to return to Washington, DC.
The president also sought to defend the police response to some extent, saying “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,” in reference to looting of several stores in Ferguson and reports that Molotov cocktails were thrown at police.
Obama further announced that his top law enforcement official, US Attorney General Eric Holder, would be traveling to Ferguson on Wednesday to meet with protesters and FBI agents spearheading a civil rights investigation into the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African American man who was shot six times by a local police officer.
Brown’s killing on August 9th galvanized the mostly African-American community of Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, to take to the streets in protest over the eight days, only to be met with a harsh crackdown by the mostly white local police force in armored vehicles, tear gas, and high-powered weaponry. The collection of local and state police agencies in Ferguson have been widely criticized for their response to the protests, including the arrest and intimidation of several journalists. After further clashes last night, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard be deployed today to reinforce and help protect police in Ferguson.