Barack Obama Praises Protests And Condemns Violence In New Statement
Millions of people all across America are uniting and taking to the streets to peacefully protest the unjust murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. The protests in general are meant to call massive attention to the centuries of racist treatment and lack of protection black people receive from the police; an organization that’s only purpose is to protect and serve ALL people.
Many individuals are tired, sad, and hopeless, as their president has only intensified matters by sending in massive groups of armed officers to break up the protests; something every American has the right to do peacefully. Instead, the police just show up, start shooting rubber bullets, tear gas, and arresting anyone they can get their hands on. Over 1,600 American citizens have been arrested for expressing their right as a member of this country and protesting for the protections of black lives. That’s 1,600 people currently in jail who were protesting for the arrest of just four men; the former officers present at Floyd’s murder.
Former president Barack Obama has released his official statement on the state of America today, and expressed how he knows this new generation of activists are more than capable of shaping strategies to enforce their beliefs and make a real change.
He began his statement by recalling the decades of peaceful protests that black individuals in America have organized to protest the same exact issue that we are still dealing with today; over 50 years later (and that’s just in terms of police brutality and the civil rights movement specifically, as we all know, the fight for racial equality among black people in America has been a fight since slavery).
He then went on to urge anyone going to these protests with the intention to cause violence, property damage, or steal should rethink their privilege and position in the matter. These protests are all being organized with peace in mind, no one has resorted to violence or “riot-like” behaviour unless instigated by the police, or if they just show up and start destroying property because they’re privileged enough to know they’ll get away with it.
“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. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands. Moreover, it’s important for us to understand which levels of government have the biggest impact on our criminal justice system and police practices.”
Obama then went on to state that while the president and the federal government are definitely at fault for a lot of things, when it comes to real systematic change the people need to turn their attention specifically to the U.S. Justice System and Congress. Local government officials such as mayors, county executives, police chiefs, etc. are all just as important to the advancement of our democracy as well, so when we’re voting, remember that! Even if it is just a small-town local election make your voice HEARD.
“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.”
To end his statement Obama wanted to emphasize that the more specific the people make demands for criminal justice reform, “the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away.” We’re all fighting the same battle, however, the systematic issues could vary based on your specific community.
This is why it’s imperative to be specific when talking to your local government officials, don’t hold back and ask them why your community looks the way it does and how you can all change to better benefit the safety and lives of black people.
“But as a starting point, here’s a report and toolkit developed by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and based on the work of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing that I formed when I was in the White House.”
These past few months have been extremely difficult and definitely disheartening but remember, the coverage of violence and anger that we see on social media constantly isn’t the only reality of America right now. Thousands of protests across the country have remained peaceful and many are breaking some ground within their own communities. So to end, as Obama did in his statement, there is plenty of change to be made and peace to be had, so “let’s get to work.”
If you want to know more about the Black Lives Matter movement and how you can directly help from home, click here for access to dozens of petitions, donation pages, and fundraising efforts specifically for those fighting for racial equality right now.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.