President Barack Obama accused police in Ferguson, Mo. of using excessive force in quelling the rioting and looting there following the shooting death of black teen Michael Brown. Police reacted much as one would expect — they backed off, leaving store owners to fend for themselves.
Not surprisingly, looting and rioting has increased in Ferguson.
On Thursday, the president took time away from his vacation schedule to address the nation on the police activities in the St. Louis suburb.
The White House quoted Obama Thursday on its Twitter account as saying, “There’s … no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests.”
Attorney General Eric Holder responded by issuing a statement that said, in part:
At a time when we must seek to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the local community, I am deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message. At my direction, Department officials have conveyed these concerns to local authorities. Also at my direction, the Department is offering – through our COPS office and Office of Justice Programs – technical assistance to local authorities in order to help conduct crowd control and maintain public safety without relying on unnecessarily extreme displays of force. The local authorities in Missouri have accepted this offer of assistance as of this afternoon.
The reluctance by police to enter the fray following these remarks was understandable; the destruction and violence that resulted was tragic.
Ferguson looters were met with little police resistance Friday night forcing store owners to protect their businesses with their own guns.
“There’s no police,” one store owner said. “We trusted the police to keep it peaceful; they didn’t do their job.”
Watch the Fox interview here.
Retired St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch tweeted:
You did not see “police restraint” overnight. You saw police reluctant to act. We cannot keep stoning the keepers at the gate.
— Tim Fitch (@ChiefTimFitch) August 16, 2014
Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said police backed off to try and ease the tension. No arrests were made.
“We had to evaluate the security of the officers there and also the rioters,” Johnson said, according to Fox News. “We just felt it was better to move back.”
But moving back isn’t necessarily the job of the police, especially in the face of violence.
“I think the first message is to remind all law enforcement that they are hired to serve and protect and if they’re going to sit back and watch looting, they’re not serving us; they’re not protecting us,” Pastor Robert White told local Fox affiliate Fox2Now, according to Fox News.