Obama Says He Won’t Call on Anti-Trump Protesters to Stop

Updated on
  • Protesters in New York and other cities say Trump is racist
  • Trump allies say Obama, Clinton should ask protesters to stop

President Barack Obama said he won’t try to stop protests against Donald Trump’s election that have raged in several cities, rejecting calls from the president-elect’s advisers to use his influence to rein in demonstrations that have erupted over the past week.

Obama has disappointed many liberals since the election on Nov. 8 by ducking opportunities to criticize Trump. Instead, he’s insisted the president-elect be given a chance to succeed. But he drew the line on Thursday at using his political prestige to try to mute dissent against the incoming president.

“I wouldn’t advise them to be silent,” Obama said at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. All presidents face protests, Obama added.

Even so, Obama said, he was “cautiously optimistic” about Trump’s presidency. During the campaign, Obama had called Trump unqualified for the office and charged that it would be dangerous to hand him control of nuclear codes and other instruments of U.S. power.

“There is something about the solemn responsibilities of that office, the extraordinary demands that are placed on the United States,” that demand “focus” and “seriousness” from presidents, Obama said. “And if you’re not serious about the job, then you probably won’t be there very long.”

Trump and his allies have blamed unrest in several cities, including outside Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan where he’s planning his government, on “professional protesters.” They’ve said Obama, losing presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and other Democratic leaders should call off the demonstrations. Protesters have called Trump a racist, and some of the incidents have turned violent and resulted in arrests, although no deaths and few injuries have been reported.

Senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said on “Fox News Sunday” that Obama, Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders and others should “come forward and ask for calm and ask for a peaceful transition, and ask their supporters which are masquerading as protesters now -- many of them professional and paid by the way, I’m sure -- ask them to give this man a chance so that this country can flourish.”

Trump’s organization has offered no evidence the protesters are paid.

Obama also criticized low Democratic turnout in the Nov. 8 election that resulted in Trump’s victory. Clinton, Obama’s former secretary of state, is ahead in the popular vote over Trump by more than 1 million, with a few million more ballots still to be tallied. Yet she failed to draw as much support as Obama did in either of his elections and lost states that had been considered reliably Democratic, including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“Elections matter. Voting matters. Organizing matters. Being informed on the issues matters,” Obama said. “Do not take for granted our systems and our way of life. Democracy is hard work.”