Barack Obama Stands By Protests, Slams Violent Behavior: You’re Putting Innocent People At Risk
Former United States President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have spoken out on their feelings on the death of George Floyd. Over the weekend, Michelle Obama shared an emotional post on her Instagram listing other black lives that were lost in the hands of police officers.
Barack Obama released an official statement, filled with conversations he’s had had with friends of his since the passing of George Floyd,
He then followed up his statement with a blog post, with action items on how to take this moment and make it a turning point to create real change. He first says that a new wave of activists are needed to create the change needed for our current times,
“Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times. But I believe there are some basic lessons to draw from past efforts that are worth remembering.”
Barack Obama addressed the protests that took place over the weekend, blaming the anger portrayed on “decade long failures to reform police practices” in the US,
“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.”
He then advises those who took place in violent acts of destroying neighbors to “operate at a higher ethical code:”
“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.”
The former President then highlighted what the point of a protest is meant to do,
“The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities.”
In Michelle Obama’s Netflix documentary Becoming, she expressed her frustration with people not getting to the polls to vote. Barack Obama then stressed how important is it to elect the right people into office, even on the local level, as it is the “district attorneys and state’s attorneys that decide whether or not to investigate and ultimately charge,”
“It’s mayors and county executives that appoint most police chiefs and negotiate collective bargaining agreements with police unions. It’s district attorneys and state’s attorneys that decide whether or not to investigate and ultimately charge those involved in police misconduct. Those are all elected positions. In some places, police review boards with the power to monitor police conduct are elected as well. Unfortunately, voter turnout in these local races is usually pitifully low, especially among young people — which makes no sense given the direct impact these offices have on social justice issues, not to mention the fact that who wins and who loses those seats is often determined by just a few thousand, or even a few hundred, votes.”
Barack Obama closes out his letter with the understanding that the last few months have been “dispiriting,” filled with fear, sorrow, uncertainty, and hardship due to the pandemic. He reminds us the only way to reach a real turning point, is to channel your justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective forms of action, while encouraging both politics and protests as effective ways to bring about change,
“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. 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.”
What are your thoughts on Barak Obama’s open letter and statement? Let us know in the comments!