Obama talks about “the deepest fault line of our democracy,”
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama honored five slain police officers during a memorial Tuesday in Dallas, saying the past week of violence has exposed “the deepest fault line of our democracy,” while also insisting that the nation is not as divided as some claim.
The president asked Americans to try to find common ground as he works to unite a nation deeply divided on the question of race relations between law enforcement and the minority communities they serve.
Last week’s attack on Dallas police by a black Army veteran who was angry over police killings of two black men in Louisiana and Minnesota intensified a national debate over racial bias in law enforcement.
In remarks that ranged from the dedication of law enforcement officers to racial bias in America, Obama said he understood that people across Dallas and the country are suffering.
Discussing bias in police, he said, is “not an attack on cops, but an effort to live up to our highest ideals.”If we’re to honor these five outstanding officers who we lost, we need to act on the truths we know,” Obama said.
The president honored the five slain officers and called for unity and hope.
“I understand how Americans are feeling, but Dallas, I’m here to say we must reject such despair,” Obama said.
He urged the nation to speak “honestly and openly” about the current state of race relations, saying an overwhelming number of police officers is “worthy of our respect, not our scorn.”
Although race relations have improved dramatically in America in recent decades, he added, “America, we know bias remains, we know it.”
Obama praised the Dallas police force, which he said had been at the forefront of improving relations in the community. He also asked the country to have an honest and open conversation. The overwhelming majority of police officers do their job professionally and deserve our respect, Obama said. But when it comes to prejudice, “none of our institutions are completely immune,” he added.
Five seats were left empty to represent each of the fallen officers during a crowded and emotional memorial at the Morton Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas.
‘Hatred and malice’
“They were peacemakers in blue; they have died for that cause,” proclaimed Mayor Mike Rawlings. “The soul of our city was pierced when police officers were ambushed in a cowardly attack.” He added, “Today must be about unity.”
Also speaking at the memorial was former President George W. Bush, a Dallas resident. Vice President Joe Biden attended the service but did not speak at the memorial. Both President’s Obama and Bush met with the families of the slain officers after the memorial service concluded.
Video from PBS News Hour.