(WTVO) — Former President Barack Obama said Monday that Americans should “not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it.”
Obama published a statement on Medium addressing the protests, rioting and looting that have occurred across the country after the Minneapolis death of George Floyd while in police custody last week.
“The waves of protests across the country represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States,” Obama said. “The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring. They deserve our respect and support.
“On the other hand, the small minority of folks who’ve resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods that are often already short on services and investment and detracting from the larger cause,” he continued.
In discouraging the violence, Obama pointed out that damaged or destroyed neighborhood businesses that residents rely on could take years to come back.
“If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves,” Obama wrote.
He emphasized the importance of voting at the local level since, he said, that’s largely where criminal justice and police practices are formed.
“The elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels,” he said.
Obama added that to bring about change, “the bottom line” is not to choose between protests and politics, but rather “to do both.”
“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 said.
Obama concluded by saying, “If, going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action, then this moment can be a real turning point.” He added, “Let’s get to work.”