Barack Obama speech: former US president speaks out about Black Lives Matter protests and police reforms after death of George Floyd

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Former US President Barack Obama has spoken out in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign, following the recent killing of African American George Floyd

Mr Obama told young people of colour “your lives matter” in the wake of global protests and riots in response to Floyd’s death, who was killed after white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin held him down and pressed a knee into his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

What did Obama say?

Speaking out on Wednesday (3 June), America’s first black president offered words of hope for young people in the US, with Mr Obama stating he feels “optimistic” about the future, in spite of recent events.

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Obama offered words of hope for young people in the USObama offered words of hope for young people in the US
Obama offered words of hope for young people in the US | Getty Images

The former president spoke at a virtual event by the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance called “Reimaging Policing in the Wake of Continued Police Violence, in what was his first public appearance since the killing of Floyd.

His words of hope mark a stark contrast to the recent warnings from the White House that the US military could be deployed to impose order, after some incidents of violence broke out.

In his address, Mr Obama said: “I want you to know that you matter, I want you to know that your lives matter, that your dreams matter, and when I go home and I look at the faces of my daughters, Sasha and Malia, and I look at my nephews and nieces, I see limitless potential that deserves to flourish and thrive.

“And you should be able to learn and make mistakes and live a life of joy without having to worry about what’s going to happen when you walk to the store, or go for a jog, or are driving down the street, or looking at some bird in a park.”

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“So I hope that you also feel hopeful even as you may feel angry because you have the potential to make things better and you have helped to make the entire country feel as if this is something that’s gotta change.

“You’ve communicated a sense of urgency that is as powerful and as transformative as anything that I’ve seen in recent years.”

He also paid tribute to the police officers who have shown solidarity with demonstrators and urged police reforms, including a ban on shooting at moving vehicles and some forms of restraint.

He added: “This is not an either/or. This is a both/and. To bring about real change, we both have to highlight a problem and make people in power uncomfortable.

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“But we also have to translate that into practical solutions and laws.”

What is the Black Lives Matter movement?

Black Lives Matter campaigns against violence and systemic racism aimed at black people through protests and digital activism.

The campaign was founded in 2013 with the aim of eradicating white supremacy and building “local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes”.

Following the death of 46-year-old Floyd, campaigners have taken to the streets across the globe to protest against black discrimination.

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Floyd died while in police custody after an officer knelt on his knee for more than eight minutes, despite him being unarmed and crying out “I can’t breathe”.

Footage of the incident has sparked worldwide protests, with demonstrators saying that this was another example of black people being targeted by authorities because of their race.