President Barack Obama addressed the unrest in Baltimore that occurred in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Grey, the African American male who died April 19 from a fatal injury to his spine while he was in police custody.
The president spoke at Lehman College in New York City on Monday to promote the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, a mentoring program for boys and young men of colour. During the speech, Obama lamented what he described as the “tragic history in this country that has made it tougher for some.”
Obama pointed to the “sense of unfairness and powerless of people not hearing their voices, that’s helped fuelled some of the protest we’ve seen in places like Baltimore, and Ferguson and right here in New York.”
“The catalyst of those protests were the tragic deaths of young men and a feeling that law is not always applied evenly in this country,” Obama said, later adding, “In too many places in this country black boys, and black men, Latino boys, Latino men they experience being treated differently by law enforcement in stops and in arrests and in charges and incarcerations. The statistics are clear up and down the criminal justice system. There’s no dispute.”
The city of Baltimore has been a hotbed of protests after Grey died from a spinal cord injury while he was detained in the back of a police vehicle.
Grey’s death was ruled a homicide and six Baltimore police officers have been charged in connection to his death.
In his remarks on Monday, Obama noted that he was “not interested in blame” and thanked law enforcement who do strive for fairness.
“The overwhelming majority of police officers are good, and honest, and fair, and care deeply about their communities…They have got a tough job to do.”
Obama highlighted the importance of the task force on community policing, formed by the White House in the wake of 2014 protests against the police-involved deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and Eric Garner in New York.
“I’m interested in responsibility and I’m interested in results.”
The president started the My Brother’s Keeper intiative in February 2014.
On Monday, he announced the creation of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a non-profit organisation that will carry out the mission of the original White House effort.
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