Obama Struggles To Find His Role After Brown Death, Ferguson - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Obama Struggles To Find His Role After Brown Death, Ferguson

Posted: Updated:
Washington, D.C. -

(FOX 11 / AP) When racial tensions erupted midway through his first presidential campaign, Barack Obama came to Philadelphia to decry the "racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years." Over time, he said, such wounds, rooted in America's painful history on race, can be healed.

Six years later, the stalemate suddenly seems more entrenched than ever. As Obama pleads for calm and understanding in Ferguson, Missouri, he's struggling to determine what role - if any - the nation's first black president can play in defusing a crisis that has laid bare the profound sense of injustice felt by African-Americans across the country.

As Obama sought to strike the appropriate tone Monday, he appeared to be trapped between the need, as president and commander in chief, to stand up for the government's right to ensure law and order, and the inclination, as an African-American, to empathize with those whose say the killing of an unarmed black man just goes to show how blacks are treated differently by police.

"In too many communities around the country, a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement. In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear," Obama said at the White House, in his most expansive comments to date about the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown just outside St. Louis.

But while Obama lamented the disproportional apprehension of young black men, he pointedly argued that's not solely the fault of overzealous cops. Police officers must be honored and respected for the difficult job they perform, Obama said.

"There are young black men that commit crime," the president said. "We can argue about why that happens - because of the poverty they were born into and the lack of opportunity or school systems that fail them or what have you - but if they commit a crime, then they need to be prosecuted, because every community has an interest in public safety."

It's a delicate balance that's likely to leave no one fully satisfied.

Aiming to reassure edgy Americans that the federal government is fully engaged, Obama announced that Attorney General Eric Holder would travel Wednesday to Ferguson to meet with FBI and other officials carrying out an independent federal investigation into Brown's death. Obama said he also spoke to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who has deployed National Guard units, and urged him to ensure the use of those units is limited and constructive. "I'll be watching over the next several days," the president said.

Obama also called for the U.S. to reassess the militarization of local police departments that have purchased military gear from the Pentagon. Federal grants for such equipment have come under intense scrutiny amid the alarming images of armored vehicles and tear gas canisters filling the streets of an American suburb.

"There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement," Obama said. "We don't want those lines blurred. That would be contrary to our traditions."

Yet for all the talk of procurement and sentencing disparities and police tactics, Obama has steadfastly avoided personalizing this latest bout of racial friction.

Unlike in 2013, when Obama declared that slain teen Trayvon Martin "could have been me," Obama has been careful not to describe Brown's death through the lens of his own experience as an African-American.

And unlike in 2009, when Obama exacerbated tensions by saying police acted "stupidly" by arresting a black Harvard University professor at his own home, this time Obama is leaving the fault-finding to investigators. Obama said Monday he has to be careful about appearing to put his thumb on the scale by weighing in while a federal probe is underway.

Witnesses have said Brown's hands were above his head when an officer shot him repeatedly on Aug. 9 in Ferguson. But police have said the officer was physically assaulted during a struggle over his weapon. Meanwhile, the aggressive police response to the subsequent protests has drawn criticism from across the U.S.

Obama's impassive response to the unrest in Ferguson contrasts with a second-term approach in which he generally has been more willing to engage on issues of race. In his remarks Monday, which came during a brief break from Obama's two-week vacation on Martha's Vineyard, the president pointed to his signature initiative, My Brother's Keeper, which aims to bring government, business and nonprofit groups together to empower young minorities to pursue a better future.

"We're making some significant progress as people of good will of all races are ready to chip in," Obama said. "But that requires that we build and not tear down, and that requires we listen and not just shout."

  • Political NewsMore>>

  • Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's corruption case goes to jury

    Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's corruption case goes to jury

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 6:02 PM EDT2014-09-02 22:02:25 GMT
    The corruption case that could send former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife to federal prison was in the hands Tuesday of jurors who must decide whether the couple sold the influence of the office to a wealthy vitamin executive seeking legitimacy for his company's signature product.
    The corruption case that could send former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife to federal prison was in the hands Tuesday of jurors who must decide whether the couple sold the influence of the office to a wealthy vitamin executive seeking legitimacy for his company's signature product.
  • Ex-Va. Gov says he knows in heart he's innocent

    Ex-Va. Gov says he knows in heart he's innocent

    Friday, August 22 2014 6:33 PM EDT2014-08-22 22:33:08 GMT
    Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell says he knows in his heart he's innocent of the federal corruption charges he's facing.
    Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell says he knows in his heart he's innocent of the federal corruption charges he's facing.
  • Rolex passed among jurors in ex-Va. gov trial

    Rolex passed among jurors in ex-Va. gov trial

    Thursday, July 31 2014 7:08 PM EDT2014-07-31 23:08:18 GMT
    The requests for lavish gifts were frequent. Jonnie Williams — the star witness in a corruption trial against the former Virginia governor and his wife — was being asked for everything from a joy ride in his Ferrari to stock in the company he led.
    The requests for lavish gifts were frequent. Jonnie Williams — the star witness in a corruption trial against the former Virginia governor and his wife — was being asked for everything from a joy ride in his Ferrari to stock in the company he led.
  • PoliticsMore>>

  • Hagel, Dempsey Defend US Plan To Target Islamic Extremists

    Hagel, Dempsey Defend US Plan To Target Islamic Extremists

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 10:34 AM EDT2014-09-16 14:34:56 GMT
    The nation's top military leader told Congress on Tuesday that if President Barack Obama's expanded military campaign to destroy Islamic extremists fails, he would recommend that the United States consider deploying American ground forces to Iraq.
    The nation's top military leader told Congress on Tuesday that if President Barack Obama's expanded military campaign to destroy Islamic extremists fails, he would recommend that the United States consider deploying American ground forces to Iraq.
  • Mideast Complexities Confound US Coalition Effort

    Mideast Complexities Confound US Coalition Effort

    Monday, September 15 2014 10:23 AM EDT2014-09-15 14:23:05 GMT
    The Middle East has confounded outsiders for years, so it is no surprise that another U.S.-led project with a straightforward goal - destroying a marauding organization of extremists - is bumping up against age-old rivalries and a nod-and-a-wink-style political culture.
    The Middle East has confounded outsiders for years, so it is no surprise that another U.S.-led project with a straightforward goal - destroying a marauding organization of extremists - is bumping up against age-old rivalries and a nod-and-a-wink-style political culture.
  • Can President Obama Wage War Without Consent Of Congress?

    Can President Obama Wage War Without Consent Of Congress?

    Friday, September 12 2014 10:38 AM EDT2014-09-12 14:38:11 GMT
    As a U.S. senator from Illinois running for the White House in 2007, Barack Obama sponsored a resolution to prohibit President George W. Bush's administration from taking military action against Iran unless it was explicitly authorized by Congress.
    As a U.S. senator from Illinois running for the White House in 2007, Barack Obama sponsored a resolution to prohibit President George W. Bush's administration from taking military action against Iran unless it was explicitly authorized by Congress.
Powered by WorldNow

KTTV FOX 11
1999 S. Bundy Dr.
Los Angeles CA 90025

Main: (310) 584-2000
News Tips? (310) 584-2025

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices