Obama, Holder discuss federal response to Ferguson chaos

 

Attorney General Eric Holder briefed President Obama Monday on a possible federal response to violence in Ferguson, Mo., after another night of clashes prompted Gov. Jay Nixon (D-Mo.) to call in the Missouri National Guard.

Police used tear gas Sunday night on demonstrators protesting the killing of an unarmed black teenager, who a private autopsy report found was shot at least six times. A white police officer, Darren Wilson, has been named as the shooter of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

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White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said Obama's primary objective in meeting with Holder was to find a way to end the violence in Ferguson, which is now in its second week. 

"I think our immediate goal is to make sure the residents of Ferguson are safe, that the looting stops, that the vandalism stops, that the people in the community have confidence that justice will be done," Jarrett said. "And that's the president's primary objective right now."

The president and Holder met Monday afternoon in the Oval Office. Obama flew back to Washington on Sunday night from his vacation in Martha's Vineyard, Mass. He is scheduled to return to his vacation on Tuesday. 

Demonstrators on Sunday ignored a mandatory curfew imposed by Nixon, and reporters on the ground observed the sounds of gunfire. 

The Justice Department has launched a civil rights investigation into Brown's killing, and Holder on Sunday announced he was requesting a federal autopsy of Brown.  

Holder has repeatedly briefed Obama on the events in Ferguson, and Jarrett said the attorney general on Monday would discuss “any further actions that the federal government could play to help reduce the violence down to zero and make sure the public understands completely the scope of the investigation and what's going on on the ground.”

Jarrett offered the comments in an interview with American Urban Radio on Monday.

The president is particularly concerned about children in Ferguson, according to Jarrett. Four schools districts in the area have delayed the start of classes because of the unrest.

"Making sure that all the residents of Ferguson are safe, particularly the young people, are paramount in the president's mind," Jarrett said.

"He looks at this — I just spoke with him this morning, his concern was thinking about it as the perspective of a parent,” she continued. “You want to know when you send your kids to school, when they leave your home, they're going to be safe."

Asked if there was concern the Ferguson situation would require a broader federal response, Jarrett said the White House would evaluate "next steps" after calming the situation in Ferguson.

"Let's get through the next few days and make sure that happens in a responsible way, and then the days and weeks ahead will determine the next steps," Jarrett said.

The Justice Department said last week that FBI agents and attorneys from the department's Civil Rights Division had interviewed witnesses on the scene of the shooting, and would canvass the neighborhood to discuss the incident with neighbors. Federal officials are also working with local and state police in an effort to de-escalate the situation.

Obama last spoke publicly about the situation on Thursday, calling for "peace and calm on the streets" and a "transparent investigation" into the shooting.

— This story was updated at 2:02 p.m.

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