President Barack Obama voiced his disapproval of the recent rioting in Baltimore in a press conference on Tuesday. “There is no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday,” he said. “It is counterproductive.”
In video captured by CNN, he went on to say, “Since Ferguson, and the task force that we put together, we have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals – primarily African-American, often poor – in ways that raise troubling questions. And it comes up, it seems like, once a week now.”
In the case of the Baltimore rioting – which erupted after the funeral of Freddie Gray, who had died in police custody – Obama said that the Justice Department had opened an investigation into the circumstances that led to Gray’s death. “I think there should be full transparency and accountability,” Obama said.
But Obama also called for unity in the nation, which has watched in horror as sections of Baltimore burned and people carried out enough violent acts to warrant Maryland’s governor declaring a state of emergency and requesting help from the National Guard. “We can’t just leave this to the police,” the president said. “There are police departments that have to do some soul-searching. I think there are some communities that have to do some soul-searching. But I think we as a country have to do some soul-searching.”
At another juncture of his press conference, he said that making a change was everyone’s responsibility. The situation, the president said, would not be totally out of control. “If our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could,” Obama said. “It’s just it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant. And we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns. We don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped. We’re paying attention all the time, because we consider those kids our kids and we think they’re important and shouldn’t be living in poverty and violence.”
Gray was arrested without incident on April 12th for being in possession of a switchblade. While being transported in a police vehicle, he suffered what authorities reported to be a “medical emergency.” Doctors later said Gray’s spine was 80 percent severed. He died on April 19th.
Violence broke out in the city after his funeral Monday night, leading to more than 15 police officers getting injured and the arrests of more than 200 citizens. Gray’s mother, Gloria Darden, condemned the violence. “I want y’all to get justice for my son, but don’t do it like this here,” she said.