WHITE HOUSE - President Barack Obama is calling for peace and calm as protests continue following the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer in the U.S. state of Missouri.
The protests escalated to the point Thursday that President Obama took time from his vacation to express his concern about the racial violence that erupted in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson following the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer.
“Now is the time for healing. Now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson," said President Obama.
Since the August 9 shooting, protesters have taken to the streets and clashed with police, who have used tear gas and smoke bombs to quell the unrest. Police officials say they did so after some of the demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at them.
In his remarks Thursday, the president called on both sides to show restraint.
“There is never an excuse for violence against police, or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting. There's also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights," said Obama.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees Americans the right to free speech.
Obama criticized police following the arrest of two news reporters who were covering the demonstrations.
“Here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people what they see on the ground," he said.
There are conflicting reports on how Michael Brown was killed. Police say the black teenager was shot while struggling with an officer. A witness says Brown had his arms up when the police officer shot him.
President Obama has asked federal authorities to conduct an independent investigation.