President Obama Shifts Focus to Police Shootings, Urges ‘Come Together As a Nation’


President Barack Obama is using two new police shootings to revive his campaign to federalize state and local police forces — and also to rally African-Americans’ support behind Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

“All Americans should be deeply troubled by the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota,” Obama said in an message posted early afternoon on the White House’s site and on Facebook.

“Although I am constrained in commenting on the particular facts of these cases, I am encouraged that the U.S. Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation in Baton Rouge, and I have full confidence in their professionalism and their ability to conduct a thoughtful, thorough, and fair inquiry,” he said. 

“These fatal shootings are not isolated incidents. They are symptomatic of the broader challenges within our criminal justice system, the racial disparities that appear across the system year after year, and the resulting lack of trust that exists between law enforcement and too many of the communities they serve … That’s why, two years ago, I set up a Task Force on 21st Century Policing that convened police officers, community leaders, and activists. Together, they came up with detailed [federal] recommendations on how to improve community policing” in states, cities and counties, he said.

Obama has been pushing the issue of police shootings since shortly before the 2014 mid-term elections, when African-Americans staged riots in Ferguson, Mo., shortly after a policeman shot an African-American during a struggle. After the 2014 elections, Obama complained that too few Democratic supporters turned out to vote.

Obama rarely discusses the racial disparities in crime committed by African Americans. He did admit the disparity in a July 2013 press conference, however.

Since 2014, many police officials — including FBI director James Comey — say police officers have grown more cautious about enforcing the law, amid pressure from the Obama-backed, media-magnified Black Lives Movement. 

Alongside Obama’s campaign, the Black Lives Movement and police caution, there’s been a sharp spike in murders in many major cities nationwide, costing hundreds of lives and much economic destruction. The murders — mostly in Chicago, Baltimore and other cities where blacks form a large minority — have helped reverse a three-decade decline in murder rates and have also spiked public worries about crime.

In contrast, GOP candidate Donald Trump has repeatedly voiced support for law enforcement. 

In his July 7 statement, Obama also included a dog-whistle to his supporters, urging them to organize and turn out in the nation’s 2016 election.

All Americans should recognize the anger, frustration, and grief that so many Americans are feeling — feelings that are being expressed in peaceful protests and vigils … Let’s come together as a nation, and keep faith with one another, in order to ensure a future where all of our children know that their lives matter.

That’s the same message Obama pitches when campaigning. “Don’t boo, vote,” he told supporters at a July 5 rally in North Carolina. 

Obama used the same violence-and-turnout strategy  in 2012, when he focused national attention on the death of Trayvon Martin, an African-American youth in Florida. During that political campaign, Obama’s supporters pushed the local officials to charge a man for shooting Martin during a fight,  and also sent Department of Justice officials down to Florida to help stage demonstrations. After the election, shooter George Zimmerman was quickly found not guilty. 

But that campaign may have helped Obama win Florida in the 2012 elections.


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