President Barack Obama is warning his angry supporters that more violence and “rhetoric” by the Black Lives Matter movement could derail his campaign to federalize state and local police forces.
“In a movement like Black Lives Matter, there’s always going to be some folks who say things that are stupid, or imprudent, or overgeneralized, or harsh,” Obama told reporters at a Sunday press conference, just three days after an African-American cop-hating racist murdered five police officers who were guarding a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas.
“Everybody involved in the Black Lives Matter movement … I want all of them to maintain a respectful, thoughtful tone — because, as a practical matter, that’s what’s going to get change done,” Obama said.
The shocking attack in Dallas has wrecked the political momentum gained by the Obama-backed movement when stressed police killed two African-American suspects during that first week of July, in Minnesota and Louisiana. Immediately after those shootings, Obama had sought to use the two shootings to push his campaign to get more federal regulatory control over state and local police forces.
But because his campaign has been accompanied by a growing number of riots and of attacks on police, including in Dallas, Obama is being forced to defend and calm his angry allies, amid growing criticism that his anti-cop rhetoric has ignored a nationwide, low-level “War on Cops.”
So far this year, 26 police have been killed in shootings, marking a 63 percent increase over 2015, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. After the Dallas shooting, gunman shot at three more policemen in Tennessee, Missouri, and Georgia. On Sunday, in Missouri, an African-American man was shot and killed as he broke into a police officers’ home following an argument on Facebook.
The anger among Obama’s allies was recorded July 9, when a BLM activist in St. Paul, Minn., frantically berated a TV reporter, while others shouted ‘Get Out of Here,’ and urged each other to attack him. “He is the face of white supremacy,” the activist shouted.
FOX reporter asks the "peaceful protesters" why they are blocking a roadway: https://t.co/2P4d9iCa0e
— Alison Arkin (@Cronikeys) July 11, 2016
The video can be viewed here.
The African-American anti-cop movement also put rioters on the streets of several cities over the weekend. In 2014 and 2015, African-American rioters wrecked the town of Ferguson, Mo., and damaged the center of Baltimore.
For the moment, Obama and his deputies are simply pretending that the Dallas attack had nothing to do the Black Lives Matter movement, despite the killer’s decision to explain his anti-cop, anti-white motives to Dallas police. “The shooter is not reflective of the large movement to bring about change that was out in Dallas to peacefully demonstrate,” Jeh Johnson, Obama’s loyal head of the the Department of Homeland Security, told a CBS interviewer on Sunday.
But the growing wave of attacks on cops has put Obama on the political defense, and his supporters may spin further out of control to create more riots or attack that would delegitimize his campaign to federalize state and local police forces — and also damage Hillary Clinton’s election chances.
“I would just say to everybody who’s concerned about the issue of police shootings or racial bias in the criminal justice system that maintaining a truthful and serious and respectful tone is going to help mobilize American society to bring about real change. And that is our ultimate objective,” he said at the Sunday press conference.
Obama did briefly condemn attacks on police, but spent much of the Sunday press conference repeatedly telling his African-American allies that angry rhetoric against police is counterproductive to his political goals.
Any violence directed at police officers is a reprehensible crime and needs to be prosecuted. But even rhetorically, if we paint police in broad brush, without recognizing that the vast majority of police officers are doing a really good job and are trying to protect people and do so fairly and without racial bias, if our rhetoric does not recognize that, then we’re going to lose allies in the reform cause.
Yet Obama simultaneously raised the political temperature by portraying the anti-cop movement as similar to the prior nation-changing political groups, some of which have include violent campaigns, such as the attacks launched by the terrorist groups, such as the Black Panthers, the Weathermen and violence by union members. Obama even cited the abolitionist movement, whose work was completed by the very bloody U.S. Civil War.
One of the great things about America is that individual citizens and groups of citizens can petition their government, can protest, can speak truth to power. And that is sometimes messy and controversial. But because of that ability to protest and engage in free speech, America, over time, has gotten better. We’ve all benefited from that.
The abolition movement was contentious. The effort for women to get the right to vote was contentious and messy. There were times when activists might have engaged in rhetoric that was overheated and occasionally counterproductive. But the point was to raise issues so that we, as a society, could grapple with it. The same was true with the Civil Rights Movement, the union movement, the environmental movement, the anti-war movement during Vietnam. And I think what you’re seeing now is part of that longstanding tradition.
Obama also said that the “flip side” of non-violence by his allies is for the cops to admit they’re in the wrong.
The flip side of that … would hope that police organizations are also respectful of the frustration that people in these communities feel and not just dismiss these protests and these complaints as political correctness, or as politics or attacks on police. There are legitimate issues that have been raised, and there’s data and evidence to back up the concerns that are being expressed by these protesters.
“If police organizations and departments acknowledge that there’s a problem and there’s an issue, then that, too, is going to contribute to real solutions,” he said, without describing what would happen if police organizations do not submit to his political demands.