Justice

President Obama Makes Powerful Statement About Baltimore

April 28th 2015

By:
Sarah Gray

On Tuesday, President Obama spoke about the unrest in Baltimore. The city -- which is just a short 45 minutes from Washington, DC -- boiled over into riots and violence yesterday, following days of peaceful protests in response to the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. On April 12, Gray's spinal cord was severed following time in police custody. He died a week later on April 19. On Monday, after Gray's funeral, pockets of violence broke out in the city.

During a joint press conference with the Japanese Prime Minister regarding the Trans Pacific Partnership, President Obama took time to address the situation in Baltimore, making six important points.

"Our thoughts remain with the family of Freddie Gray," Obama began. "Understandably they want answers." He then went on to say that his thoughts were also with the police officers injured during the riot.

"There's no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday," he said, calling the violent actions of a few "counterproductive" to the neighborhood and to the protest movement. The president also slyly called out the media, saying that peaceful and productive protests were happening without media coverage, but the image of a burning building has played on repeat on TV.

The president addressed the fact that nearly every week there's another story about people losing their lives at the hands of the police.

"This has been a slow rolling crisis. This has been going on for a long time," President Obama said of the strained relationship between the police and many communities. "This is not new, and we shouldn't pretend that it's new. The good news is perhaps there's some newfound awareness because of social media and video cameras and so forth."

"There are problems and challenges when it comes to how policing and our laws are applied in certain communities," he continued. "And we have to respond."

The president's most powerful point was his final one.

"I think we as a country have to do some soul searching," Obama explained. "This is not new, it has been going on for decades. And without making excuses for criminal activity that happens in these communities, we also know that if we have impoverished communities that have been stripped of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty....it's more likely that those kids will end up in jail or dead than in college."

"In those environments," Obama continued. "If we think that we're just going to send the send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there, without as a nation and a society saying what can we do, too, to change those communities, to help uplift those communities, and give those kids opportunities we're not going to solve this problem and we'll go through the same cycles of periodic conflict with police and communities and the occasional riots in the streets. And everybody will feign concern until it goes away and then go about our business as usual."

The President acknowledged that making this deeper change is tough work -- and that Congress was unlikely to pass any of Obama's proposed social programs. However, he hoped that the nation will pay more attention to communities that need it not just "when a CVS burns," or when somebody is killed by police.

"That was a very long answer," the president said. "But I felt pretty strongly about it."

Watch from the one hour and two minute mark below: