Former President Barack Obama on Monday condemned violence amid protests over the death of George Floyd but said demonstrators could bring about a "turning point for real change" if they channel their anger into "peaceful, sustained, and effective action."
In an essay on Medium, Obama wrote, "Let's not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves."
Obama stressed that “it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices - and... that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands."
The former president emphasized that "if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both.”
He also encouraged activists to be detailed in their agenda for change, because “the more specific we can make demands..., the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away.”
Obama also pointed out that although it is important "we have a president, a Congress, a US Justice Department, and a federal judiciary that actually recognize the ongoing, corrosive role that racism plays in our society and want to do something about it… the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels."
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