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US President Barack Obama speaks on ferguson and immigration reform at the Copernicus Community Center on Nov. 25, 2014 in Chicago.
Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama condemned the violence in Ferguson, Mo., on Tuesday, after a night of protests in the area turned violent following the announcement that a grand jury chose not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in Michael Brown’s death.

Speaking in Chicago before a scheduled speech on immigration reform, the President acknowledged that many Americans are upset by the decision but appealed for calm.

“Burning buildings, torching cars, destroying property, putting people at risk, that’s destructive and there’s no excuse for it,” Obama said. “Those are criminal acts. People should be prosecuted if they commit criminal acts.”

He continued, “nothing of significance, nothing of benefit results from destructive acts.”

Obama also said he is deploying Attorney General Eric Holder to lead regional discussions to address the roots of the crisis in Ferguson: Distrust between law enforcement officials and the local community. He called on those dissatisfied by the grand jury’s decision not to take the easy route of violence, but rather to come together to improve their communities.

“To those that think that what happened in Ferguson is an excuse for violence, I do not have any sympathy for them,” he added. “I have no sympathy at all for destroying your own communities.”

Obama was briefed by Holder on Monday evening’s violence in Ferguson, and members of his administration have been working to diffuse tensions. White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz told reporters aboard Air Force One that the President’s senior advisor Valerie Jarett spoke with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Monday night and Tuesday morning to receive updates from the ground. Broderick Johnson, the White House cabinet secretary, convened a call with the Missouri delegation Monday evening.

Also on Monday, White House staffers held a call with mayors across the country, while Jarrett and Holder spoke with civil rights leaders. Schultz added that Obama would consider visiting the city once “things calm down a little bit.”

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