WASHINGTON (AP) — A leader of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, who met with President Barack Obama said Tuesday that a trip there now would be "too little, too late."
Ashley Yates, co-founder of Missouri-based Millennial Activists United, said the youth leaders who gathered in the Oval Office on Monday did not push the president to make a visit to Ferguson. The president has considered going since racially charged protests erupted over this summer's shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old by a white police officer.
"What we need him to do now is him use the power of his position, the power of the highest office of the land to enact some real change," Yates said in a conference call with reporters. "We have been on the ground making the changes that we can in our community, but these are high-level changes that we need to see. These are systemic issues and we need systemic solutions for them. We need policies. We need the backing of our black president to say that this is a racial issue and that he stands behind us. We don't need him to come and put boots to the ground. He should have done that 100 days ago."
Yates, a 29-year-old from St. Louis, helped start Millennial Activists United in the wake of 18-year-old Michael Brown's death and has been arrested during protests in Ferguson.
The White House described the meeting with Yates and seven other youth civil rights activists as a significant part of his day devoted to responding to the events in Ferguson. Afterward, Obama told reporters he will sign an executive order to bring more transparency to federal programs that provide military-style equipment to local police. Critics have questioned why police needed to disperse demonstrations in the wake of Michael Brown's death wearing body armor and riding in armored vehicles.
Yates and other activists on the conference call say they support Obama's executive order but want him to do more to draw down police militarization programs. The White House has said those programs were created by Congress and have been useful in other situations, but there needs to be more oversight.
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