Obama Has Message for Violent Protesters

Don't demand a higher ethical code if you can't abide by it yourself, he says
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2020 12:19 PM CDT
Obama: Anger Is Justified. Now It's Time to Channel It
Former President Obama speaks during a town hall meeting at the European School For Management And Technology in Berlin, Germany.   (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

President Obama is out with a lengthier message on the George Floyd arrest, one that condemns the violence and looting but expresses hope that the protests can bring about a "turning point" in American history. In his essay at Medium, the former president says the anger on the streets is justified because it reflects "frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States." He praises the vast majority of protesters who have remained peaceful but faults those who turned to violence. "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," writes Obama.

The protests are necessary to raise awareness of racial bias, but they won't mean much if they are not combined with political action, adds Obama. "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." He links to a list of resources at Obama.org and to a "tool kit" from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to help make that happen. Finally, Obama writes that he is "hopeful" of change because of all the young activists he sees rising up. "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." Read his full essay. (More Barack Obama stories.)

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