Obama pays tribute to slain Dallas officers
DALLAS, Texas (AP):
At a memorial for slain police officers, President Barack Obama declared yesterday that a week of deeply troubling violence has appeared to expose "the deepest fault lines of our democracy." But he insisted the nation is not as divided as it seems and called on Americans to search for common ground in support of racial equity and justice.
Obama acknowledged Americans are unsettled by another mass shooting on their streets and are seeking answers to the violence that has sparked protests in cities and highlighted the nation's persistent racial divide.
Five Dallas officers were killed last Thursday while standing guard as hundreds of people protested the police killings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota earlier in the week.
"It's hard not to think sometimes that the centre might not hold, that things might get worse," Obama said. "We must reject such despair."
He joined politicians, police officers and families of the fallen in the wake of the shocking slaying by a black man, who said he wanted revenge for the killings of blacks by police.
"The soul of our city was pierced," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said, as he welcomed Obama to the memorial service. The group had assembled to combat "a common disease" of violence and honour those who fight it, "our men and women in blue, our peacemakers in blue".
Rawlings spoke steps from five empty chairs and five portraits of the dead officers.
A call for national unity and solidarity was reinforced by several speakers at the interfaith service, including former President George W. Bush, a Dallas resident, who attended with his wife, Laura.
"At times, it feels like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together," Bush said. "Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions. And this has strained our bonds of understanding and common purpose."
Bush called on Americans to reject the unity of grief and fear.
"We want the unity of hope, affection and higher purpose," he said.
Obama has denounced the shooting as a "vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement" by a "demented" individual. And he has argued that, despite the heated public outcry of the past week, the country is not as divided as it may seem.
Obama's choice of travelling companions underscored the theme. Republican Sen Ted Cruz of Texas and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California joined Obama him on Air Force One for the flight to Dallas.
Obama sought to begin bridging those issues with his tribute to the fallen five, who included a former Army Ranger, a Navy veteran and a newly-wed starting a second family.