by Xu Jing, Marcus DiPaola
CHICAGO, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday called for "peace and calm" in Ferguson, as five days of racially charged protests gripped the St. Louis suburb of Missouri following the shooting death on Saturday of an unarmed 18-year-old black man by the police.
"Now is the time for healing, now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson," Obama said in a televised statement from Martha's Vineyard where he is on vacation."
Meanwhile, he urged an open and transparent investigation into the shooting of the teenager, Michael Brown, adding there was no excuse for the police to use excessive force against peaceful demonstrators or to arrest them.
Obama said he has tasked the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation with investigating the death of Michael Brown along with local officials on the ground.
"When something like this happens, the local police have a responsibility to be open and transparent about how they are investigating that death and how they are protecting the people in the communities," he said. "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."
Obama also spoke out against the arrests of two American journalists by police Wednesday, one from the Washington Post, the other from the Huffington Post, while working inside a MocDonald's. The two, who were later released without charges or an explanation, said they were treated brutally by the police.
"In the United States of America, people should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs, and report to the American people on what they see on the ground," Obama said.
Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man from the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson and just a few days from starting technical school, was killed by multiple gunshots fired by a police officer when he walked down the street with a friend on Saturday afternoon.
The circumstances surrounding the shooting are in dispute. Local police chief Thomas Jackson said a side of the officer's face was swollen from what the police said a struggle in which Brown assaulted the officer and tried to take his gun, an account contradicting the words of witnesses, who said Brown was unarmed and had raised his hands to surrender before the final, fatal shots were fired.
Despite calls from the public and press alike, the Ferguson Police Department has declined to release the name of the officer, citing safety concerns for the officers and his family, only to brew wider public angry and frustration.
Several bouts of protests over the shooting have erupted in Ferguson following the teen's death, and the situation between local law enforcement and the African-American community is tense.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, who arrived at Ferguson to assess the situation, assured residents on Thursday that "We must make sure that justice prevail." He also promised Ferguson residents were going to see a different tone in the response by the police who fired tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch released a post on Wednesday, saying Ferguson police are much more likely to stop, search and arrest African-American drivers than white ones.
In 2013, blacks, who make up a little less than two-thirds of the driving-age population in the North County city, accounted for 86 percent of all stops. When stopped, they were almost twice as likely to be searched as whites and twice as likely to be arrested, it said.