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Eric Holder: Ferguson, Missouri residents "gave me hope"

Attorney General Eric Holder makes a major financial fraud announcement during a press conference August 21, 2014 at the Justice Department in Washington, DC.

Alex Wong, Getty Images

Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday said that he traveled to Ferguson, Missouri, a day earlier to provide reassurance to the town's residents about the ongoing investigation into the shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown. Instead, Holder said, "they gave me hope."

"To a person yesterday, the people I met would take great pride in their town," he said. "And despite the mistrust that exists, they reject the violence that we've seen over the past couple of weeks."

The attorney general also spoke about how he was personally impacted by his trip.

"On a personal level, I've seen a lot in my time as attorney general, but few things have affected me as greatly as my visit to Ferguson," Holder said.

"I had the chance to meet with the family of Michael Brown. I spoke to them not just as attorney general but as a father of a teenage son myself. They, like so many in Ferguson, want answers. In my conversations with dozens of people in Ferguson yesterday, it was clear that this shooting incident has brought to the surface underlying tensions that have existed for many years. There is a history to these tensions, and that history simmers in more communities than just Ferguson."

Demonstrators have taken to the streets in Ferguson since Aug. 9, when Brown was shot by a police officer. The shooting has put a spotlight on systemic problems within the U.S. criminal justice system, including racial inequities, mistrust between police forces and minority communities, and the militarization of the police.

Holder on Wednesday was briefed on the status of the Justice Department's civil rights investigation into Brown's death. Along with meeting with federal investigators and residents of Ferguson, the attorney general met with law enforcement and community leaders.

Holder said that the Justice Department will stand with Ferguson "long after this tragic story no longer receives this level of attention."

"We will continue the conversation this incident has sparked about the need for trust-building between law enforcement officers and the communities that they serve about the appropriate use of force and the need to ensure fair and equal treatment for everyone who comes into contact with the police," he said.