Obama to speak on Ferguson protests, Iraq

President Obama will make a statement Thursday at 12:15 p.m. from Martha's Vineyard, Mass., addressing the violence in Ferguson, Mo., and U.S. efforts in Iraq to push back militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The president was briefed Wednesday night by Attorney General Eric Holder and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett about the clashes between protesters and police in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb.

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Overnight, more than a dozen people — including reporters for The Huffington Post and The Washington Post — were arrested in the fourth consecutive day of mass protests following the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

Local police, already facing accusations of using excessive force in the incident, fired smoke bombs and tear gas into crowds of demonstrators.

White House officials expect the president will hold another meeting Thursday morning with advisers to be updated on the situation.

Earlier this week, Obama issued a written statement calling for "reflection and understanding" after Brown's killing, imploring those upset over the death to conduct a discussion "in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds." He and first lady Michelle Obama also personally reached out to the Brown family to express their condolences, according to White House spokesman Eric Schultz.

But the words appear to have done little to diffuse the situation, with protestors in Ferguson saying Brown's death was emblematic of long-brewing racial tensions in the town.

On Iraq, Obama is expected to provide an update on the ongoing humanitarian mission to help thousands of minorities who were trapped on Mount Sinjar, fearing slaughter from Sunni extremists who have seized large swaths of northern Iraq.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon said it had determined that thousands of the Yazidis trapped on the mountain had been able to escape because of the success of U.S. humanitarian airdrops and strikes on militant targets. 

"The Yazidis who remain are in better condition than previously believed and continue to have access to the food and water that we have dropped," said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby. "Based on this assessment the interagency has determined that an evacuation mission is far less likely."

Obama’s address comes as the number of U.S. forces in Iraq has inched up to 1,000.