Former President Barack Obama defended widespread protests in America’s major cities on Wednesday, in a virtual town hall about changing the “systemic racism” of police departments.
Just remember this country was founded on protest. It’s called the American Revolution, and every step of progress of this country. Every expansion of freedom, every expression of our deepest ideals has been won through efforts that has made the status quo uncomfortable.
Obama said that the widespread protests were just one more way that America was paying for the “original sin of our society” that begin with slavery.
“They are the result of a long history of slavery, Jim Crow, institutionalized racism that have too often have been the plague of the original sin of our society,” he said.
Obama said that there was only a “tiny minority” that engaged in violence during the protests, lamenting that they received the majority of the focus. He added that arguments about voting versus civil disobedience missed the point, and that America needed both aspects to move towards progress.
“I have been hearing a little bit of chatter on the internet about voting versus protest. Politics and participation versus civil disobedience and direct action,” he said. “This is not either/or. This is both/and to bring about real change.”
The hour and a half conversation featured Obama discussing his own community policing task force that he put together in his administration, and urged all mayors to do more to fix their police forces. The former president stayed away from any explicit or implicit criticism of President Donald Trump.
He urged all activists to move quickly to institute changes in society.
“At some point, attention moves away, protest starts to dwindle in size and it is important for us to take the momentum that has been created as a society and as a country to say, let’s use this to finally have an impact,” he said