- President addresses deaths of two black men at hands of police
- Fatal shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota under investigation
President Barack Obama said the fatal shootings of two black men by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana demonstrate the racial disparities that still exist in the U.S. and that should be troubling to all Americans.
“These are not isolated incidents,” Obama said just after arriving in Warsaw for a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “They’re symptomatic of a broader state of racial disparities that exist within our criminal justice system."
Obama said blacks and Hispanics are far more likely than whites to be stopped and searched by police and they are shot by officers at more than twice the rate. While lauding the “heroic” work being done by most police officers, he said the situation must be addressed through better police training and practices. The issue can’t be allowed to devolve into “the usual political scrum,” he said.
“To be concerned about these issues is not to be against law enforcement,” Obama said. “When people say black lives matter, that doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter.”
Obama was responding to the death of a black man shot by a police officer in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, and another on Tuesday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Parts of both encounters were captured on video that rocketed through social media.
The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and in Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton released a statement saying he asked for a federal inquiry into the shooting of Philando Castile on Wednesday.
In a televised news conference on Thursday, Dayton decried the shooting, which he said was part of a long pattern of discriminatory treatment of black people.
“Would this have happened if the driver were white, if the passengers were white?” he asked. “I don’t think it would have.”