Thu, Jul 14, 2016 - Page 7 News List

Obama remembers slain police officers

COMFORTER IN CHIEF:The president urged Americans to cast aside doubt in US democracy and replace it with faith in the nation’s institutions and progress

AP, DALLAS

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a memorial service following the multiple police shootings in Dallas, Texas, U.S., July 12, 2016.

Photo: Reuters/Carlo Allegri

US President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged Americans rattled by a week of violence and protests to find “open hearts” and new empathy in a speech that seesawed between honoring police officers for their bravery and decrying racial prejudice that can affect their work.

Obama spoke near five empty chairs for the police officers killed last week by a black man seeking vengeance for police killings. Behind him, underscoring his message of unity: Dallas police officers, a racially diverse church choir and local officials who ranged from Dallas Police Chief David Brown, an African-American, to former US president George W. Bush, a Dallas resident.

Obama sought to reassure the nation that he understands the impact of the unsettling events of the past week — including the killing of two black men by police officers, as well as the Dallas attacks.

Disturbing videos of the events have “left us wounded and angry and hurt,” he said. “It is as if the deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed, perhaps even widened.”

Undaunted, the president urged Americans to cast aside such doubt and replace it with faith in the nation’s institutions and progress.

“Dallas, I’m here to say we must reject such despair. I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem. And I know that because I know America. I know how far we’ve come against impossible odds,” he said.

The president spoke steps away from the chairs left empty for the five men killed on Thursday last week while protecting hundreds of people protesting the killings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota.

The US Army veteran killed by police after the Dallas attack said he was motivated by revenge.

“The soul of our city was pierced,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said, as he welcomed the president and a line of public officials, including Bush, who attended with his wife, Laura, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, and Brown.

“Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions,” Bush said. “And this has strained our bonds of understanding and common purpose.”

Bush and other speakers paid tribute to the fallen officers — Brent Thompson, a 43-year-old newlywed; Patrick Zamarripa, 32, a US Navy veteran who served in Iraq; Michael Krol, 40, an athlete and basketball lover; Michael Smith, 55, a former US Army Ranger and father of two; and Lorne Ahrens, whose wife is a police detective.

No one expressed his appreciation for the men more memorably than Brown, who has emerged as the steady and charismatic face of the Dallas police.

For Obama, the moment was a chance to try to defuse what some have described as a national powder keg of emotions over race, justice, gun violence and policing. The president positioned himself as both an ally of law enforcement and a sympathizer of the Black Lives Matter movement.

It is a posture neither side has completely accepted.

Law enforcement officials have sharply criticized Obama and some of his policies, including a decision to stem the flow of military-grade equipment to local departments.

One prominent voice, National Association of Police Organizations executive director William Johnson, accused Obama of waging a “war on cops.”

Meanwhile, some protesters questioned why Obama rushed home from Europe to attend the service in Dallas before meeting with the communities grieving their dead in Minnesota and Louisiana.

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