Former President Barack Obama spoke out in support of the efforts of peaceful protesters in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody and called for police reforms.
"We have seen in the last several weeks, last few months, the kinds of epic changes in events in our country that are as profound as anything that I've seen in my lifetime," he said during a Zoom event hosted by My Brother's Keeper Alliance, a part of the Obama Foundation.
He said what the country has seen is a result of the nation’s history of slavery, red-lining, Jim Crow, and institutionalized racism that's the “original sin of our society.”
Obama was joined by his attorney general, Eric Holder, who argued much the same, linking Floyd’s murder to “stereotypes, born in slavery, in the notion — you know, in order to enslave a people, you had to think they were in some ways different, in some ways inferior. Those attitudes … are still part of the American psyche."
The former president said the resulting protests have been an “opportunity” for people to be “awakened” to these underlying issues.
“Every step of progress in this country, every expansion of freedom, every expression of our deepest ideals have been won through efforts that made the status quo uncomfortable,” he said. “And we should all be thankful for folks who are willing, in a peaceful, disciplined way, to be out there making a difference.”
While he said the “vast majority” of police officers were not violent, he nonetheless called for reforms he thought they would all support, including “mandatory de-escalation of conflicts, a ban on shooting at moving vehicles, timely reporting of violent incidents, and prohibitions on some forms of restraint used by the police,” The New York Times reports.
Obama said real change will come about through both protests and political participation.
“We both have to highlight a problem and make people in power uncomfortable, but we also have to translate that into practical solutions and laws that could be implemented and monitored and make sure we’re following up on.”