Barack Obama released a statement on Monday afternoon (June 1) about the ongoing protests against police brutality and social injustice. Via an Instagram post, the former Commander-In-Chief responded to the protests across the nation, which he wrote “represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system.”
“As millions of people across the country take to the streets and raise their voices in response to the killing of George Floyd and the ongoing problem of unequal justice, many people have reached out asking how we can sustain momentum to bring about real change,” his statement began.
“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,” he continued.
Obama acknowledged the individuals who, “whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism,” have resorted to violence, looting and destruction of property, explaining that they are “putting innocent people at risk [and] 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,” he wrote. “If history is any guide, that store may take years to come back.”
The bulk of Obama’s statement delivered insight on how protestors can work to change legislature and policing policies at local levels, in order to institute long-lasting change.
“The elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels,” he explained. “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.”
Furthermore, the former POTUS included links to a toolkit that was developed by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, based off his work with his administration's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. He also designated a specific webpage via his Obama Foundation to compile additional resources and organizations that protestors can use.
“I recognize that these past few months have been hard and dispiriting — that the fear, sorrow, uncertainty, and hardship of a pandemic have been compounded by tragic reminders that prejudice and inequality still shape so much of American life,” he wrote. “But watching the heightened activism of young people in recent weeks, of every race and every station, makes me hopeful. If, going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into a 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.”
“Let’s get to work,” he concluded. Read his entire statement below.