FEATURED PHOTO CREDIT: CHARLIE RIEDEL/AP
FERGUSON, Mo. – Yesterday’s Grand Jury ruling announcement sparked national attention for Missouri that surpassed that of the any event in the past generation. Tension rose throughout the past week as the region and state prepared for the worst. Media trucks were lined up hours before the announcement. The pleas below for peace were met with multiple building fires, a major highway shutting down, and looting as peaceful protesters were overrun by opportunists.
Elected officials, from city prosecutors to the president, made comments or speeches pleading for peace and calling for prayers for the Brown family. Below, find a collection of formal statements that Missouri’s elected officials have released. Social media comments have not been included.
As we find and are sent more statements as the area recovers, The Missouri Times will continue to add to the list.
- President Barack Obama
“As you know, a few moments ago, the grand jury deliberating the death of Michael Brown issued its decision. It’s an outcome that, either way, was going to be subject of intense disagreement not only in Ferguson, but across America. So I want to just say a few words suggesting how we might move forward.
First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law. And so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make. There are Americans who agree with it, and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry. It’s an understandable reaction. But I join Michael’s parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully. Let me repeat Michael’s father’s words: “Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone.” Michael Brown’s parents have lost more than anyone. We should be honoring their wishes. I also appeal to the law enforcement officials in Ferguson and the region to show care and restraint in managing peaceful protests that may occur. Understand, our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day. They’ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law. As they do their jobs in the coming days, they need to work with the community, not against the community, to distinguish the handful of people who may use the grand jury’s decision as an excuse for violence — distinguish them from the vast majority who just want their voices heard around legitimate issues in terms of how communities and law enforcement interact. Finally, we need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation. The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country. And this is tragic, because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates. The good news is we know there are things we can do to help. And I’ve instructed Attorney General Holder to work with cities across the country to help build better relations between communities and law enforcement. That means working with law enforcement officials to make sure their ranks are representative of the communities they serve. We know that makes a difference. It means working to train officials so that law enforcement conducts itself in a way that is fair to everybody. It means enlisting the community actively on what should be everybody’s goal, and that is to prevent crime. And there are good people on all sides of this debate, as well as in both Republican and Democratic parties, that are interested not only in lifting up best practices — because we know that there are communities who have been able to deal with this in an effective way — but also who are interested in working with this administration and local and state officials to start tackling much-needed criminal justice reform. So those should be the lessons that we draw from these tragic events. We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson, this is an issue for America. We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades. I’ve witnessed that in my own life. And to deny that progress I think is to deny America’s capacity for change. But what is also true is that there are still problems and communities of color aren’t just making these problems up. Separating that from this particular decision, there are issues in which the law too often feels as if it is being applied in discriminatory fashion. I don’t think that’s the norm. I don’t think that’s true for the majority of communities or the vast majority of law enforcement officials. But these are real issues. And we have to lift them up and not deny them or try to tamp them down. What we need to do is to understand them and figure out how do we make more progress. And that can be done. That won’t be done by throwing bottles. That won’t be done by smashing car windows. That won’t be done by using this as an excuse to vandalize property. And it certainly won’t be done by hurting anybody. So, to those in Ferguson, there are ways of channeling your concerns constructively and there are ways of channeling your concerns destructively. Michael Brown’s parents understand what it means to be constructive. The vast majority of peaceful protesters, they understand it as well. Those of you who are watching tonight understand that there’s never an excuse for violence, particularly when there are a lot of people in goodwill out there who are willing to work on these issues. On the other hand, those who are only interested in focusing on the violence and just want the problem to go away need to recognize that we do have work to do here, and we shouldn’t try to paper it over. Whenever we do that, the anger may momentarily subside, but over time, it builds up and America isn’t everything that it could be. And I am confident that if we focus our attention on the problem and we look at what has happened in communities around the country effectively, then we can make progress not just in Ferguson, but in a lot of other cities and communities around the country.”
- Sen. Roy Blunt (R)
“Michael Brown’s death was a tragic loss for his family and for the community. Since August, I’ve been in close touch with clergy members and other local leaders, and I believe we all agree our first priority is peacefully healing and rebuilding the community after months of unrest. We must balance the rights of Americans to exercise their free speech alongside the rights of people to live peacefully and safely in their communities. I join Michael Brown’s family in urging protestors to do so peacefully. I’ve talked extensively to law enforcement officials to learn more about the tactics, resources, and procedures that our first responders utilize statewide. Law enforcement officials have been candid in identifying ways officers could have handled the situation in Ferguson better, and I trust those recommendations will be helpful as we continue to count on them to protect us. My thoughts are with Michael Brown’s family today, as well as those in law enforcement who continue to protect the rights of all they serve, the National Guard members we ask to step forward during difficult times in our state, and all of their family members. Michael’s death was tragic, and the months since this tragedy have marked a challenging time in Ferguson and across Missouri. Together, I know we can move forward and heal as we work to find better job opportunities in and more investment for challenged communities.”
- Sen. Claire McCaskill (D)
“There will be many people who are disappointed in today’s decision, even though it is a result of a deliberate legal process that’s being independently checked by Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Justice Department. While we await the conclusion of that independent investigation—and continue working together for solutions to systemic issues highlighted by this tragedy—I’m praying that the good people of St. Louis and local law enforcement will remain peaceful and respectful of one another.”
- Congressman Lacy Clay (D-St. Louis)
“From the beginning of this tragic case, I have repeatedly expressed my grave concerns about the local investigation into the police killing of Michael Brown, Jr. Today…sadly, we see that those concerns were well-founded. The grand jury’s decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson is extremely disappointing, but not unexpected. Two days after Michael Brown was killed, I contacted U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to request the urgent assistance of the Department of Justice. I am thankful that the Attorney General and his staff responded with great speed and strength. He has assured me that the ongoing federal investigations will be extensive, vigorous, and will follow the facts, wherever they lead. The pursuit of justice for Michael Brown, Jr. and his family is not over. While I share the anger and frustration of so many in our community, I ask everyone to be peaceful. Be prayerful. And remain disciplined & dignified in everything that we must now do as we go forward together to confront the huge disparities that continue to deny equal protection under the law for persons of color in our region, and across this nation. That is the best way to honor Michael Brown’s memory.”
- Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin)
“As a mother, I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child. My thoughts and prayers are with both Michael Brown’s and Darren Wilson’s families during this difficult time. For the last three months, a grand jury of 12 randomly selected jurors methodically and thoroughly poured through facts and evidence to seek the truth and uphold justice. Today, after a lengthy process, the grand jury reached its decision that the evidence did not support the indictment of police officer Darren Wilson. We must have faith in our judicial system and that all the facts led the grand jury to a just and fair decision. Now it’s time for us all to heal together as a community. I am grateful for the men and women of law enforcement who work to serve and protect us each and every day – they live in our community, share our values and deserve our utmost respect. I hope all Americans will join me and countless others as we pray for peace in our community.”
- Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Kansas City)
“My wife and I have raised three sons, and we know the challenges a young, black man faces growing up. Our heart goes out to Michael Brown’s family for their tragic loss. Without a doubt, there are important issues in this country that need to be confronted, communicated, and worked through in the spirit of community,” said Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II. “But violence, looting, and arson are not the answer. Not even close. We sacrifice the safety of others by creating chaos –instead of pursuing a path that protects the rights of all Americans — regardless of color.”
- Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Congressional Black Caucus Chair
“The Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown is a miscarriage of justice. It is a slap in the face to Americans nationwide who continue to hope and believe that justice will prevail. This decision seems to underscore an unwritten rule that Black lives hold no value; that you may kill Black men in this country without consequences or repercussions. This is a frightening narrative for every parent and guardian of Black and brown children, and another setback for race relations in America.”
- Gov. Jay Nixon
After the Grand Jury decision
“While the 12 men and women on the St. Louis County grand jury have concluded their work, the rest of us have much more work to do in order to use the lessons we have learned these past four months to create safer, stronger and more united communities. As we continue to await word on the U.S. Justice Department’s ongoing investigation, I urge all those voicing their opinions regarding the grand jury’s decision to do so peacefully. I also urge everyone to continue working to make positive changes that will yield long-term social, economic and spiritual benefits for all our communities. My commitment to the people of the region and state is this: I will do everything in my power to keep you safe and protect your right to speak. We must also make a commitment to one another: to trust more and fear less, to hold ourselves to a higher standard of personal responsibility and mutual respect, and to keep working to extend the promise of America to all our citizens. It is my continued hope and expectation that peace will prevail. The world is watching. I am confident that together we will demonstrate the true strength and character of this region, and seize this opportunity to build a more just and prosperous future for all.” Before the Grand Jury decision “I’m pleased to be joined this afternoon by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and Missouri Director of Public Safety Dan Isom. Later this evening, the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney will announce the grand jury’s decision. While none of us knows what that will be, our shared hope and expectation is that regardless of the decision, people on all sides show tolerance, mutual respect, and restraint. Earlier today, I visited with some folks in Ferguson, and it’s understandable that, like the rest of us, they are on edge waiting for a decision. But they are doing their best to go about their daily lives, conduct their business, and support one another and their community. I also spoke with a number of faith leaders late this afternoon who offered their prayers for peace and safety. Together, we are all focused on making sure the necessary resources are at hand to protect lives, protect property and protect free speech. Several churches will be providing safe havens throughout the area to provide food, shelter, and medical care. Mental health providers have teamed up to help ease the emotional strain these events have caused. These health professionals are working right now to provide counseling and other services to people who need them. Law enforcement officials continue to maintain open lines of communication with protest leaders to improve the interactions between police and demonstrators and prevent violence. I want to thank my Director of Public Safety, Dan Isom, for taking part in these ongoing discussions. State and local law enforcement agencies are continuing to work hand-in-hand to make sure the best, most-experienced officers are on the street. The men and women of the National Guard also will be in the area to provide security at critical facilities like firehouses, police stations and utility substations, and offer logistical and transportation support as needed. This will free up law enforcement officers to do their jobs effectively. In closing, I’d like to reiterate my call for peace, respect and restraint, and thank everyone out there who is working hard to make sure communities throughout the region are safe and secure.”
- Attorney General Chris Koster
“The death of Michael Brown has caused every Missourian to reflect deeply on divides that continue to exist within our state. While Missouri’s law enforcement community is professional and dedicated to protecting our state’s citizens, these events call on all leaders to explore solutions that increase confidence and communication across those divides. The most lasting lessons of Ferguson are yet to be realized.”
- Secretary of State Jason Kander
“Michael Brown, his family and his friends are in my thoughts and prayers now more than ever. We must all remember that, no matter the circumstances, a mother and father lost a child. I’ve talked to many small business owners in Ferguson over the past few months and learned about all the work they put in to build their businesses from the ground up. What happened to many of their dreams last night is devastating. Peaceful protesting is a completely appropriate way to cope with this situation. Throughout our history, peaceful protests have brought meaningful change. And we certainly need that change in the St. Louis region. But rioting and violence have never brought the change that people were seeking. Burning down the community where Michael Brown lived will not prevent a situation like this from happening again. Ignoring the wishes of his parents for a peaceful protest will not prevent a situation like this from happening again. Violence toward police officers will not prevent a situation like this from happening again. I woke up this morning with an even heavier heart for Michael Brown’s parents, and I didn’t think that was possible. Now, together, we must find a way to get through this. Those peacefully protesting for change throughout the St. Louis region, our state and the country should be respected and allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights. But those who cause destruction in the community should be brought to justice. Last night was one of the worst nights our state has seen in decades. Today, I join everyone in praying for peace and a path forward for the St. Louis region and Michael Brown’s family.”
Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D-St. Louis)
“The events and mismanaged actions that led to last nights’ violence is intolerable. However, I find those that portray themselves to be our allies in urban areas, yet remained silent for 108 days, is a disgrace to Humanity. I pray for those bystanders that said or did nothing in all this time. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘There comes a time when silence is a betrayal.’ I do, however, believe that justice, freedom, equality and respect for human life will ultimately prevail regardless of the price or level of discomfort. My hope is that those who have been on the sidelines will earnestly accept my invitation to heal our community and our region. This will not occur by sweeping institutional prejudice under the rug. We all have a responsibility to change the course of history. God Bless America!”
- Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis)
“I have long been on the opposing side of prosecutor Bob McCulloch on the Michael Brown grand jury case. I even started a petition, which received approximately 117,000 signatures, calling for his removal from the case. The prosecutor has a history with the African-American community in this city, leading me and many of my colleagues to believe he would not be able to remain unbiased on this case, even though it has been made clear that the outcome of this case could very possibly lead to further unrest and public suspicion of our local law enforcement. I won’t stand by and say that I’m not frustrated or disappointed with today’s actions. It is okay to be angry and hurt by, or even protest because of, what has happened here today. However, it is not okay to destroy our communities or hold our neighbors hostage in their homes. With this decision comes the opportunity to begin the healing process. We must come together as citizens of this diverse community and we must raise our voices for peace. Let us now continue down the path to a healing place for the St. Louis region. There are no more words to describe this tragic situation that have not already been said. My very heart goes out to Michael Brown’s family. But what we need to recognize on this day is that, despite the grand jury’s decision, those who have stood for justice since the beginning will continue to reshape our communities by our positive actions and our strength. As a legislator, one of my roles is to restructure our city through policy. As we get closer to the beginning of the next legislative session, I will continue to work on bills that will help our city heal. I will be sponsoring a few pieces of legislation that will work toward that goal. One would dissolve all the villages that exist currently in St. Louis County and place the governance of those villages under the authority of unincorporated St. Louis County. The second would tighten current statute regarding the use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer. Yet another, calls for a special prosecutor to be named in the event of any law-enforcement-officer-involved shooting. We stand at a turning point in history. How we move forward is up to us. United we stand, divided we fall. Let’s work together to make our future a better and brighter place.”
Sen. Scott Sifton (D-St. Louis)
“While the grand jury’s decision has ended one set of proceedings, the much broader discussion of issues implicated by Michael Brown’s tragic death is still just beginning. Let us all work together in the coming days, months, and years to achieve positive change from this tragedy.”
- Speaker of the Missouri House Tim Jones (R-Eureka)
“Tonight, the Grand Jury of the County of St. Louis came to the conclusion that the facts of the Michael Brown case were not sufficient to indict Officer Darren Wilson as to any crime. Our system of justice, whether we personally like the outcome or not, has succeeded in evaluating the facts presented and has come to a conclusion that must be respected in a nation that continues to be a country governed by the law.”
- Speaker-elect of the Missouri House John Diehl (R-Town and Country)
“During this highly emotional time as people react to the decision of the grand jury it is imperative that our primary emphasis be on keeping the peace and ensuring the safety of the public. I urge everyone in Ferguson and in all parts of the state to obey the rule of law and to express their thoughts and feelings on this issue in a peaceful fashion.”
- Rep. Brandon Ellington (D-Kansas City), Missouri Black Caucus Chairman
“The Missouri Legislative Black Caucus stands in solidarity with those who choose to protest peacefully. We urge all governmental bodies and law enforcement agencies to respect the constitutional, civil and human rights of those who protest peacefully. As a caucus we denounce the militarization of the police and have voiced our concerns to the governor about the National Guards presence preemptively in the city of Ferguson. To the protesters, we are requesting that you remain peaceful and in doing so we support your actions 100 percent.”
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted the #MoLeg podcast. She joined The Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.