At a press conference today, Ferguson, Mo. Police Chief Thomas Jackson addressed the days of violent protests that have roiled in the city and escalated Wednesday evening, when police officers reportedly fired tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters and journalists. "What's happening now is not what any of us want," Jackson said. "We need to get everyone to calm down, bring some peace to this."
Jackson said that he has spoken with leaders from the local NAACP chapter and from the Justice Department on how to move forward with future protests.
"We want everybody to be able to protest, we know they're going to protest, we want to facilitate their ability to protest—because it's a constitutional right—so we're working with these leaders to try and put this together," he said.
When asked about officers' militarized approach to policing protesters, Jackson told reporters, "There is gunfire, there is firebombs being thrown at the police. I understand that what it looks like—is not good." He went on, saying, "The whole situation is not good at this point. That's why there's several meetings going on right now to evaluate tactics, how we approach this."
Jackson called on protesters to "stop the violence" and that police "don't want to have any violence" on their part. "We want this to be peaceful," he said.
"It's going to be a long process," Jackson said. "We need to have everybody to tone it down."
Reports from Wednesday night's protest have said that police initiated violence with some protesters. Jackson did not directly respond to a reporter's request for an explanation or a rebuttal.
"We have a basic obligation to allow people to get to their homes and businesses and to drive up and down the roadways," he said.
And despite multiple reports from the scene last night, Jackson seemingly denied that any of the protesters (or journalists) were harmed. "We can only have a part of town be closed down for so long before we have to open it back up, without physically hurting anybody. And that's why we're using these less lethal tactics," he said.
But after being asked whether he felt satisfied with the police response to protests, he attempted to walk back his answers.
"What I'm satisfied with is that we haven't hurt anybody—nobody's got injured or killed. One police officer did get hit with a brick and actually broke his ankle and one other officer was injured," Jackson said. "But in general, I mean, with the chaos that's going on right now, I'm at least happy nobody's gotten seriously injured."
Two journalists, the Washington Post's Wesley Lowery and the Huffington Post's Ryan J. Reilly were arrested by police last night; an Al Jazeera crew was hit with a tear gas can and rubber bullets in an area away from protesters. When asked to explain why those journalists were arrested and attacked, Jackson replied, "I don't know."
"Why is the media becoming a target?" one reporter asked.
"The media's not a target," Jackson answered.
Jackson closed the press conference by describing the situation in Ferguson as "a powderkeg," saying, "That's why we're going to try to facilitate the protest tonight and we hope that the protesters will recognize that we are trying to facilitate, to help everybody bring this down—bring all the tensions down."