COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- President Barack Obama said the racial discrimination in Ferguson, Missouri, extends beyond that city's police department, and that law enforcement changes are a prime focus in the civil rights movement.

Improving civil rights and liberties with police is an area that "requires collective action and mobilization" a half-century after an earlier generation of activists changed the nation, the president said.

Those were Obama's first remarks about this week's Justice Department report of racial bias in Ferguson. It found officers routinely discriminated against blacks by using excessive force.

President Barack Obama at the Brookland Banquet and Conference Center in West Columbia, S.C. Friday. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

"I don't think that is typical of what happens across the country, but it's not an isolated incident," Obama said in an interview that aired Friday on The Joe Madison Radio Show on Sirius XM radio's Urban View channel.

"I think that there are circumstances in which trust between communities and law enforcement have broken down, and individuals or entire departments may not have the training or the accountability to make sure that they're protecting and serving all people and not just some," Obama said.

Obama's interview was to preview his trip Saturday to Selma, Alabama, to speak from the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where white police officers beat civil rights protesters on March 7, 1965. Obama last visited Selma in 2007, when he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. At that time, he spoke about the responsibility of those who came after the civil rights generation of the 1960s to carry on the struggle.

In a separate interview with radio host Tom Joyner, Obama said that despite the progress in race relations over the past 50 years, the federal findings about Ferguson show that civil rights "is an unfinished project."

Obama was in Columbia, South Carolina, on Friday for a town hall meeting at historically black Benedict College. He planned to speak about efforts young people made throughout history to expand opportunity.

The visit was Obama's first to South Carolina as president.

South Dakota and Utah are the only states he has not traveled to while in office.

Before the college visit, Obama worked the lunch buffet line at a church conference center in West Columbia. The president was accompanied by Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., and Attorney General Eric Holder.

 

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