Obama addresses George Floyd protests, police brutality at MBK town hall
The town hall was the first time Obama addressed the country since the death of George Floyd.
Barack Obama spoke to the nation for the first time since protesting has erupted all over the country in response to the death of George Floyd.
The former president addressed the nationwide demonstrations over the killings of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and more during the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance town hall on Wednesday.
The event, “Reimagining Policing in the Wake of Continued Police Violence,” began at 5 p.m. EST via Zoom and was live-streamed on YouTube.
“Now, I want to speak directly to the young men and women of color in this country who have witnessed too much violence and too much death,” Obama began. “Too often, some of that violence has come from folks who were supposed to be serving and protecting you. I want you to know that you matter. I want you to know that your lives matter, that your dreams matter, and when I go home and I look at the faces of my daughters, Sasha and Malia, and I look at my nephews and nieces, I see limitless potential that deserves to flourish and thrive.”
He continued, “You should be able to learn and make mistakes and live a life of joy without having to worry about what’s going to happen when you walk to the store, or go for a jog, or are driving down the street, or looking at some birds in a park. I hope that you also feel hopeful even if you may feel angry, because you have the power to make things better and you have helped to make the entire country feel as if this is something that’s got to change. You’ve communicated a sense urgency that is as powerful and as transformative as anything that I’ve seen in recent years.”
Obama made several calls to action during his speech, including having every city in the country commit to becoming a My Brother’s Keeper community and asking every U.S. mayor to review their use of force policies.
“A lot of mayors and local elected officials read and supported the [21st Century Policing] Task Force report, but then there wasn’t enough follow,” he said. “So today, I’m urging every mayor in this country to review your use of force policies for members of your community and commit to report on planned reforms.”
Obama was joined by Hon. Eric H. Holder, Jr., former attorney general; Rashad Robinson, the executive director of Color of Change; Brittany Packnett Cunningham, the co-founder of Campaign Zero and a former member of Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force; Phillipe Cunningham, the Minneapolis city council member of Ward 4; and Playon Patrick, youth leader of My Brother’s Keeper in Columbus, Ohio.
The town hall was centered around “the tragic events of recent weeks, the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system, and specific action steps needed to bring about meaningful change,” according to a press release.
The U.S. has been gripped by civil unrest since Floyd, 46, was killed while in Minneapolis police custody on Memorial Day. In a video released on May 25, Floyd can be seen handcuffed and pinned to ground with officer Derek Chauvin‘s knee on his neck for several minutes.
He was later pronounced dead at a local hospital, with his death being ruled a homicide by the medical examiner’s office. Chauvin and the three other officers involved in the arrest were fired on May 26, according to Minneapolis police.
Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter three days later. His charges were upgraded to second-degree murder on June 3 and the other three officers were also charged.
At least 9,300 people in the U.S. have been arrested and several people have been killed during the civil unrest between demonstrators, police and the National Guard, according to AP.