WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama, made his first remarks on the death of Freddie Gray and the ensuing violence, Tuesday at a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He criticized those rioting in the streets of Baltimore as “criminals” and “thugs” and argued that broader societal changes are needed to address underlying tensions that exist between African-American communities and the police.
“The violence that occurred yesterday distracted from the fact that you had seen multiple days of peaceful protests , that were focused on entirely legitimate concerns of these communities of Baltimore led by clergy and community leaders,” stated President Obama at the Press conference. “and they were constructive and they were thoughtful and frankly it didn’t get that much attention and one burning building will be looped on television over and over again and the thousand of demonstrators who did it the right way have been lost in the discussion.”
Obama said fixing the problems experienced in Baltimore, Ferguson, Mo., and other cities will require politically difficult choices on education, criminal justice reform and economic investment in neighborhoods often overlooked until such incidents occur.
“We can’t just leave this to the police. I think there are police departments that have to do some soul-searching,” says Obama. “I think there are some communities that have to do some soul-searching. But I think we as a country have to do some soul-searching. This is not new. It’s been going on for decades.”