Obama to speak about George Floyd in virtual town hall
Former President Obama will speak publicly Wednesday about police brutality and the criminal justice system in the wake of nationwide protests of the police killing of George Floyd.
Obama will appear at a virtual town hall meeting alongside former Attorney General Eric Holder and police reform activists. The remarks will be his first on-camera comments about Floyd’s death and the demonstrations throughout the nation.
The town hall is set to take place at 5 p.m. Eastern and will be livestreamed at obama.org.
An Obama aide said the town hall will focus on the ongoing problem of racial bias in the criminal justice system and the way to bring about meaningful change.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, reprimanded President Trump on Tuesday for his handling of the protests. Trump has made a series of controversial statements, including a tweet early Friday that said when the “looting starts, the shooting starts.”
On Monday, police aggressively forced peaceful protestors out of a square beside the White House so that Trump could walk across it for a photo-op in front of a church.
Biden said Trump had fanned the “flames of hate” and turned the country “into a battlefield riven by old resentments and fresh fears.”
Obama, the nation’s first black president, brings the conversation to another level, Democrats say.
“President Obama has, in many ways, been drafted into the national conversation because Americans are so thirsty for anything resembling presidential leadership,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne. “I anticipate he will deliver many of the same messages heard in the Biden speech but from the personal perspective and lived experience of an African American.”
It’s a rare foray into national politics by Obama, and is likely to trigger a reaction from Trump, who over the past several weeks has been ripping the former president on a range of issues.
Trump has blamed the Obama administration for the lack of preparedness in the United States for the coronavirus, which emerged in the United States three years after Obama left office. He also blames Obama and his aides for the surveillance of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Obama has generally avoided public criticism of Trump, and it is unclear whether he will forcefully attack Trump’s handling of the demonstrations, though it seems likely the clearing of Lafayette Square will come up.
One former Obama aide added: “The nation is at an all-time low in recent memory and is craving leadership. Finally we’ll hear directly from a president, albeit a former one.”
In a statement following Floyd’s death, the former president said that the death of a black man in police custody “should not be ‘normal’ in 2020 America.” Earlier this week, in a piece on Medium, Obama offered suggestions on the way communities can “sustain momentum to bring about real change.”
“If we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both,” the former president wrote. “We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.”
He noted that the protests across the country represented a “genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States.”
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