On Tuesday, the president finally weighed in on the burning of Baltimore, expressing remorse for what happened and labeling the perpetrators criminals for their vandalism and rioting.
“There’s no excuse for the kind of violence we saw yesterday,” he said. “It is counterproductive. When individuals get crowbars and start prying up doors to loot, they’re not protesting. They’re not making a statement. They’re stealing. When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson. And they’re destroying and undermining businesses and opportunity in their own communities.”
“That is not a protest,” he continued. “It is a handful of people taking advantage of a situation for their own purposes and they need to be treated as criminals.”
Nevertheless, he acknowledged that there are legitimate concerns in minority communities insofar as issues of equal justice and fair treatment are concerned.
Issues, he said, that must be addressed.
“I think it’s pretty understandable why the leaders of civil rights organizations – but more importantly, moms and dads across the country – might start saying this is a crisis,” he said. “What I’d say is this has been a slow rolling crisis; it’s been going on for a long time. This is not new and we shouldn’t pretend this is new.”
“But the good news is,” he continued, “that perhaps there’s some newfound awareness – because of social media and video cameras and so forth – that there are problems and challenges when it comes to how policing and our laws are applied to certain communities. And we have to pay attention to it and respond.”
In order to end systemic injustice, however, he said Americans must begin seriously committing themselves to solving the underlining problems affecting impoverished communities, such as high unemployment and drug abuse.
The police, he suggested, can only do so much.
“We can’t just leave this to the police,” he intoned. “If our society really wanted to solve this problem, we could. It’s just that it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant. And we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns. And we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped. We’re paying attention all the time, because we consider those kids our kids and we think they’re important – and they shouldn’t be living in poverty and violence.”
Watch President Obama's entire press conference below: