President Obama on Thursday called on protesters in Charlotte, N.C., to remain peaceful, saying that rioting won’t help heal the divide between police and the communities they serve.
“The way we change the system requires us to reach out and engage the broader American community and that requires being peaceful,” Obama said in an interview with ABC News.
“That requires being thoughtful about what are the specific reforms you’re looking for.”
Obama said the “overwhelming majority of people” who have spoken out against police-related killings of black men are “doing it the right way.” But he added that, “every once in a while you see people doing it the wrong way.”
The comments are Obama’s first on the police-related killings of black men in Charlotte, N.C., and Tulsa, Okla. The shootings have revived a nationwide debate over racial bias in law enforcement that has hung over his presidency.
The president’s appeal for peace comes after two nights of violent protests in Charlotte after officers shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott, a black man police say was armed.
The unrest left several police officers and civilians injured. One man was shot Wednesday by a civilian and is on life support.
Obama on Thursday spoke with North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who declared a state of emergency in response to the protests.
Despite the violent response in Charlotte, Obama said most African-Americans rightly have a “pervasive sense of frustration … about shootings of people and the sense that justice is not always colorblind."