Obama pays respects to slain officers, urges unity
‘I believe our righteous anger can be transformed into more justice and more peace,’ Obama says in memorial for five officers.
Michael Hernandez - WASHINGTON (AA) – President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged Americans to unite while acknowledging deep divisions in American society amid national unrest following the killings of black men by police officers and the shooting deaths of five officers.
“The deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed, perhaps even widened,” Obama said during an emotional memorial service for the slain officers in Dallas. “And although we know that such divisions are not new, though they've surely been worse in even the recent past, that offers us little comfort.”
The shootings were the deadliest episode for U.S. law enforcement officers since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in which 71 officers were killed.
In Dallas, officers last Thursday were guarding demonstrators protesting against the fatal shootings of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota earlier in the week.
Police said the alleged shooter, Micah Xavier Johnson, said he wanted to kill white people, particularly white officers, in the wake of the fatal police shootings of black men.
During a long standoff, police used a bomb-laden robot to kill Johnson, a black Army veteran.
Of those killed on the night of July 7, four officers were white and one was Hispanic.
"With an open heart, we can worry less about which side has been wronged, and worry more about joining sides to do right," Obama said, "because the vicious killer of these police officers won't be the last person who tries to make us turn on one another."
Before Obama delivered his remarks, the White House said Johnson's “actions were motivated by racial hatred” and “the hate crime laws that we have on the books don't exist just to protect black people or minorities. They're there to protect all Americans”.
During his address, Obama urged unity at a time when divisions appear to some to be insurmountable.
“It's hard not to think sometimes that the center won't hold and that things might get worse,” he said.
“I understand. I understand how Americans are feeling. But Dallas, I'm here to say we must reject such despair. I'm here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem,” he added. “I believe our righteous anger can be transformed into more justice and more peace.”
On the flight to Dallas, Obama called the family members of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the men killed in Louisiana and Minnesota, to offer condolences on behalf of the first family, according to the White House.
Speaking prior to Obama, former President George W. Bush, who resides in suburban Dallas, echoed Obama's sentiment saying that more must be done to achieve national unity.
"At times it feels like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together," Bush said. "Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions. And this has strained our bonds of understanding and common purpose,” he added.
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