Former United States President Barack Obama has released a statement on “the ongoing problem of unequal justice” and the protests in response to the killing of George Floyd.
Since Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last Monday, protests have sprung up in major cities across the country. While the initial protests in Minneapolis were peaceful, a police precinct was later set on fire and local businesses were vandalized and looted.
These violent protests were repeated in New York, Los Angeles, Oakland, Boston, Newark, Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Seattle, and many more cities around the country.
In a medium post, Obama said no protesters should “excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it.”
He also said “to bring about real change… it’s going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times.”
I wrote out some thoughts on how to make this moment a real turning point to bring about real change––and pulled together some resources to help young activists sustain the momentum by channeling their energy into concrete action. https://t.co/jEczrOeFdv
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 1, 2020
First, the waves of protests across the country represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States. The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring. They deserve our respect and support, not condemnation — something that police in cities like Camden and Flint have commendably understood.
On the other hand, the small minority of folks who’ve resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods that are often already short on services and investment and detracting from the larger cause. I saw an elderly black woman being interviewed today in tears because the only grocery store in her neighborhood had been trashed. If history is any guide, that store may take years to come back. So let’s not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves.
“So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both,” he continued. “We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.”
The former president concluded: “I recognize that these past few months have been hard and dispiriting — that the fear, sorrow, uncertainty, and hardship of a pandemic have been compounded by tragic reminders that prejudice and inequality still shape so much of American life. But watching the heightened activism of young people in recent weeks, of every race and every station, makes me hopeful.”
“If, going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action, then this moment can be a real turning point in our nation’s long journey to live up to our highest ideals,” he added. “Let’s get to work.”
My statement on the death of George Floyd: pic.twitter.com/Hg1k9JHT6R
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) May 29, 2020