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Obama to send Attorney General Holder to Ferguson, urges restraint

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama said on Monday he was sending Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday to investigate the fatal shooting of a black teenager by a white policeman, and urged restraint on the part of both law enforcement and protesters.

"To a community in Ferguson that is rightly hurting and looking for answers, let me call once again for us to seek some understanding rather than simply holler at each other," Obama told a news conference. "Let's seek to heal rather than to wound each other."

Obama said that anger over the death of the youth, Michael Brown, was understandable, but condemned the violence and theft that had taken place during the protests.

"It's clear that the vast majority of people are peacefully protesting," he said. "Looting, or carrying guns, and even attacking the police only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos."

The president interrupted a two-week seaside vacation to return to Washington for meetings on the unrest in the community near St. Louis and on fighting in Iraq. Obama spoke to reporters after meetings with his national security team and Holder.

Peaceful protests and coverage of the unrest by journalists are guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and must be protected, Obama said.

"There's no excuse for any excessive action by police or any action that denies people the right to protest peacefully," he said. (Reporting by Mark Felsenthal, Jeff Mason and Steve Holland; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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