Obama says George Floyd protests show desire ‘that we can do better’

Barack Obama has added his voice to the national outcry over the death of George Floyd and the continued police brutality against black Americans.

In his first on-camera remarks about the crisis, the former US president said recent months have seen “the kinds of epic changes and events in our country that are as profound as anything I’ve seen in our lifetime”.

Speaking at a virtual town hall event, led by young activists, he also offered some words of optimism.

“As tragic as these last few weeks have been, as difficult, scary and uncertain as they’ve been, they have been an incredible opportunity for people to be awakened.”

Protesters clash with police during a rally against the death of Minneapolis, Minnesota man George Floyd at the hands of police on May 28, 2020 in Union Square in New York City
Image:Protesters in Union Square in New York City

He said the protests taking place across America are “a far more representative cross-section of America that did not exist back in the 1960s”.

“There is a change in mindset that’s taking place – a greater recognition that we can do better.”

His powerful voice joins a chorus calling for policy change and reforms to ensure safer policing and more trust between communities and law enforcement.

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Anger is being felt across the country at the seemingly endless cycle of black Americans dying at the hands of law enforcement.

There is some hope that George Floyd‘s death could trigger reform.

And despite no longer being in office, Mr Obama is pitching himself as a leader of that change, while calling on young people to drive it.

He did not mention Donald Trump but appears motivated by what Democrats see the national leadership void left by the current president.

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Recently Mr Obama has shown an increased willingness to critique the president as his role as chief surrogate for presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, steps up a gear.

Mr Biden will rely heavily on the increased presence of his former boss in the run up to November’s election. As the campaign heats up, Mr Obama is expected to make the case that Donald Trump is unfit to lead.

The death of George Floyd has prompted a more urgent tone from America’s first black president. During his own presidency he grappled with police brutality against black Americans.

In 2014 clashes broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, after the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Policing reforms put forward then have largely been stopped under the Trump administration.

Presidential hopeful Joe Biden has called for those reforms to be restored and for Congress to take immediate action such as outlawing chokeholds.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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