President Barack Obama has condemned the violence in Ferguson, Missouri, criticizing the use of excessive force by police trying to temper riots that have rocked the town for days.
“I know emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened,” Obama said in a news conference Thursday afternoon. “But let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family, we are united in common values and that includes the belief in equality under the law, respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protests.”
The conflict began after the reportedly unarmed Michael Brown, 18, was shot by an officer Saturday. His death gave way to unrest in the St. Louis suburb, with black residents accusing authorities of racism and pushing the tragedy into the national spotlight. Obama is asking the Justice Department and FBI to investigate Brown’s death.
Police have used tear gas, smoke bombs and rubber bullets against demonstrators. And in the area, local businesses have been looted. As of Wednesday, more than 50 people have been arrested, according to The New York Times.
But police are defending their tactics.
“In talking to these guys, it is scary,” St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman told the Associated Press. “They hear gunshots going off, and they don’t know where they’re coming from.”
The situation has escalated so much that the governor is pulling county forces out of the town, Representative William Lacy Clay told Bloomberg.
Those on the frontlines of the rallies have taken to social media, sharing photos and videos of the chaos. See NSFW footage straight from the clash below:
A Facebook user captured people looting the Quiktrip convenience store on Sunday.
In these videos from Tuesday night, a witness captures protesters chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and shouting, “F– the police!”
On Wednesday, an Instagram user filmed heavily armed police threatening to arrest peaceful protesters.
Another bystander posted video of an outdoor church service honoring Brown on Wednesday.
That night, a Facebook user uploaded a video showing protestors standing with their hands in the air. A siren sounds, and the air erupts with gas and rubber bullets. But St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter David Carson Tweeted that police took the offensive after the crowd threw rocks, bottles and Molotov cocktails at them.
Another demonstrator videotaped himself as he teared up from the gas police had shot at the crowd.
• With reporting by the ASSOCIATED PRESS