*President Obama spent roughly 16 minutes speaking about the situation in Baltimore, saying his thoughts were with the family of Freddie Gray and the injured police officers, but also speaking out against the systemic police brutality and poverty that fosters such a violent reaction.
“This is nothing new,” the president said twice during a press conference from the White House. [Scroll down to watch.]
President Obama first condemned the outbreak of violence in Baltimore that followed the funeral for Gray, a 25-year-old man whose death followed his spine being snapped and voice box crushed while in police custody more than two weeks ago.
The president on Tuesday condemned the “criminals and thugs who tore up” the city Monday night. “There’s no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday. It is counterproductive. When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting. They’re not making a statement. They’re stealing. When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson. And they’re destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities. That robs jobs and opportunity from people in that area.”
Shifting gears, Obama also said that “there are some police who aren’t doing the right thing,” citing tensions with police that have simmered in African-American communities for decades and now seem to boil over “it seems like once a week now.”
“This is a slow-rolling crisis,” Obama said. “This has been going on for a long time. This is not new and we shouldn’t pretend it’s new.”
He said addressing those issues in communities where manufacturing jobs have fallen away and the illicit drug trade has become a key source of income requires major policy shifts, including more funding for education, criminal justice reforms to help nonviolent offenders gain employment and changes in police tactics, such as attaching small video cameras to each officer.
He said achieving those changes would require “that we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns” — a reference to one of the most prominent scenes from Baltimore on Monday night.
“I think there are police departments that have to do some soul-searching. I think there are some communities that have to do some soul-searching,” Obama said. “But I think we as a country have to do some soul-searching.”
Obama said he spoke with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who was sworn in Monday, said the Justice Department is investigating Gray’s death.
Watch President Obama’s comments on the Baltimore uprising below: