Barr says Black Lives Matter ‘distorting the debate’
Attorney General William Barr said Thursday that the Black Lives Matter movement “distorts” the important debate over systemic racism in the country.
In an interview with ABC News, Barr said the movement uses the phrase “black lives matter” to refer exclusively to African Americans who are killed by police instead of focusing on a range of issues.
“I’d make a distinction between the organization, which I don’t agree with, they have a broader agenda,” he said. “But in terms of the proposition that Black lives matter, obviously Black lives matter. I think all lives — all human life is — is sacred. And entitled to respect. And obviously Black lives matter.”
“But I also think that it’s being used now in a sort of distorting the debate, to some extent. Because it’s used really to refer exclusively to Black lives that are lost to police misconduct which — are — you know, have been going down statistically. Five years ago there were 40 such incidents. This last year it was 10. So at least it’s a positive trajectory there. But then you compare it to 8,000 homicides in the African American community, those are Black lives that matter, too. And those are lives that are protected by the police.”
The remarks come amid a mushrooming national conversation over systemic racism and police brutality sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis in late May.
Polling has shown a surge of support across party lines for the Black Lives Matter movement amid ongoing protests and civil unrest.
However, President Trump has come out swinging against the movement, dismissing activists and anarchists and looters and condemning a “Black Lives Matter” mural as a “symbol of hate.”
Barr maintained that he did not see Trump’s recent remarks about Black Lives Matter and that the movement should broaden its focus beyond police killings.
“I’d have to see what he said. I don’t know what he said. But I also think, you know, it’s not just protecting life. It’s also Black Lives Matter in the sense of ensuring that African Americans fully participate in the benefits of this society and their lives flourish. And I think it goes beyond just the physical safety. It goes to getting good education. It goes to having economic opportunities,” he said.
“So I think the Black Lives Matter, you know, has focused on a particular problem. And it is a problem. And it’s a problem that at least the trajectory has been improving. And they’re ignoring, I think, these broader issues.”
Republicans often cite violence in Black communities when discussing systemic racism, a tactic critics say is rarely followed up by action on relevant issues such as gun control and is intended to deflect away from conversations on broader social problems.