Monday night the city of Baltimore was assaulted by looting and rioting following the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died in police custody.
The turmoil began on Monday afternoon and carried on overnight. 200 persons were arrested and 15 police officers were injured, six of which were hospitalized. The number of injured rioters is yet unknown. Moreover stores were destroyed and cars were set on fire.
Obama commented for the first time on the latest events which took place in Baltimore. Beforehand he talked to Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the mayor of Baltimore and to Larry Hogan , Maryland governor. At a press conference from the White House he made the following statement:
“There’s no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday. It is counterproductive.”
Obama declared that when people use crowbars to pry open doors in order to rob we are not talking about a riot, but of theft. People are not trying to make a statement, they are simply stealing. Neither are they sending any message when they burn down buildings, it is considered arson. The rioters are destroying and compromising businesses and opportunities in their own society. This means that they steal jobs and opportunities from people in their community.
Obama also pointed out that police officers may not do the right thing, giving as example the conflicts with law enforcement which have affected African-American communities for decades. It seems like now all the tensions are bursting into public view once a week, he added.
The president also drew attention to the fact that some communities should be paid more attention to and not only when buildings are set on fire. Obama said that major policy shifts are needed in communities where manufacturing jobs have dropped off and illegitimate drug trade is the essential source of income. According to him criminal justice reforms and more funding for educations should be enforced in order to ensure jobs for nonviolent offenders. Measures to change police tactics should also be taken such as having each officer attached a small video camera. He acknowledged that this is hard to do since a political motivation which the country lacks lately is needed.
Obama believes that “soul-searching” could help improve this situation. This means that police departments, communities and the country as a whole should all closely analyze their motives, actions, beliefs and attitudes.
Image Source: Time