President Barack Obama has called for peace and calm in Ferguson, Missouri, the St. Louis suburb where an unarmed black teenager was fatally shot over the weekend by a white police officer. Obama has been involved in other high-profile cases with racial overtones: the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watchman and the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates.
In the wake of the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, police from multiple departments in riot gear and with military equipment have clashed with protesters nightly. In his first public comments on the case, Obama said there is “never an excuse” for violence against police and similarly “no excuse” for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to jail protesters for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights.
After the unarmed teenager was shot on a rainy night in February 2012 in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, Obama said “this could have been my son.” A jury acquitted neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman of all charges in the shooting of 17-year-old. Obama said after the verdict that “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” The case led Obama to deliver an extensive reflection on race that was all the more notable because it came from a president who largely has avoided tackling the issue, even as he is dogged by it.
HENRY LOUIS GATES
In July 2009 Obama said police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, had “acted stupidly” by arresting the black Harvard professor in his own home after investigating a reported burglary. Amid criticism from police officers and others, Obama said he should have used different words. He then brought Gates and the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, who is white, to the White House for a beer in the Rose Garden.