Jun 1, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Obama on protests: "This moment can be a real turning point" for U.S.

Obama.
Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images for EIF & XQ

Former President Obama championed the "heightened activism of young people" and the spirit of the nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd and other instances of police brutality while calling for an end to the violence that has erupted in parts of the country in a Medium post published Monday.

The big picture: The former president urged citizens to vote in concert with protesting, arguing that "if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both."

What he's saying: Obama acknowledged that the "overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring," adding that they deserve "our respect and support, not condemnation."

  • "On the other hand, the small minority of folks who’ve resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods that are often already short on services and investment and detracting from the larger cause."
  • "So let’s not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves."
  • "The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s only in response to protest that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities."

The bottom line: "If, going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into 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."

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