Obama: America is not as divided as some suggest
President Barack Obama yesterday rejected the notion that last week's stunning violence is a signal that the US has returned to some of the darkest days of its past, saying that as painful as the killings of police and black men were, "America is not as divided as some have suggested."
"Americans of all races and all backgrounds are rightly outraged by the inexcusable attacks on police, whether it's in Dallas or anyplace else," Obama said from Warsaw, where he attended a NATO summit.
"That includes protesters," Obama added. "It includes family members who have grave concerns about police conduct, and they've said that this is unacceptable. There's no division there."
The comments marked the third time in as many days that Obama has spoken, from a distance, about the police-involved fatal shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota that were followed by a sniper attack in Dallas that killed five police officers last Thursday night. Seven officers and two civilians were also injured.
"This has been a tough week," the president said.
Obama said the Dallas shooter, a black Army veteran who was later killed by police, was a "demented individual" who does not represent black Americans any more than a white man accused of killing blacks at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, represents whites.
Obama said he would visit Dallas "in a few days" to pay respect and mourn with the stricken Texas City.
The shootings, and the ensuing protests in some US cities that followed, led to an uncharacteristic response from the president: He cut his five-day, two-country European trip to four days.
Obama still planned to go ahead with his first visit as president to Spain and was to arrive late yesterday in Madrid, the capital. But he has scrapped a stop in the southern city of Seville and will cram two days of events into one, including meetings with interim President Mariano Rajoy and a visit with US sailors stationed at a naval base in Rota.
In his news conference before departing Poland, Obama said that while "there is sorrow, there is anger, there is confusion" in the US, "there's unity in recognising that this is not how we want our communities to operate. This is not who we want to be as Americans and that serves as the basis for us being able to move forward in a constructive and positive way".
"So we cannot let the actions of a few define all of us," he said.
The president said he planned to convene a White House meeting in coming days with police officers, community and civil rights activists and others to talk about next steps.
He said the "empathy and understanding" that Americans have shown in responding to the events of the past few days, including Dallas police officers even as they came under attack, had given him hope.
"That's the spirit that we all need to embrace," Obama said. "That's the spirit that I want to build on."