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During a White House forum to address criminal justice reform Thursday, President Barack Obama defended the Black Lives Matter movement, saying the concerns of the activists who have marched and protested for change are “legitimate.”

Echoing the sentiments of activists who have countered the dismissive “All Lives Matter” refrain, Obama reiterated that while all lives do matter, Black communities are under a specific and unique scourge that needs to be addressed. Using the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” Obama said, does not mean that other lives do not.

“I think everybody understands all lives matter,” Obama said. “I think the reason that the organizers used the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ was not because they were suggesting nobody else’s lives matter. Rather, what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that’s happening in the African-American community that’s not happening in other communities. And that is a legitimate issue that we’ve got to address.”

Discussing the conservative rhetoric that aims to derail the movement by aligning it with violence against police officers, Obama made a point to explain that the movement isn’t an attack on law enforcement, rather, it’s about the reality that Black people are often times mistreated by police.

“Everybody wants strong and effective law enforcement, Obama said. “Nobody wants to see police officers hurt.”

From CBS:

But the president said people should also “understand the overwhelming majority of law enforcement’s doing the right thing and wants to do the right thing” and “recognize that police officers have a really tough job and we’re sending them into really tough neighborhoods that sometimes are really dangerous and they’ve got to make split-second decisions.”

He said people shouldn’t be “too sanctimonious” about situations that can sometimes be ambiguous.

“But having said all that, we as a society, particularly given our history, have to take this seriously,” Mr. Obama said. “And one of the ways of avoiding the politics of this and losing the moment is everybody just stepping back for a second and understanding that the African-American community is not just making this up.”

He continued, giving legitimacy to the calls of Black Lives Matter activists challenging state violence, saying the issues are “real.”

“There’s a history behind it and we have to take it seriously,” Obama said.

Watch the video above to see Obama’s defense of the Black liberation movement.


Watch Roland Martin and NewsOne Now breakdown reaction to President Barack Obama’s defense of the Black Lives Matter movement in the video clip below.

TV One’s NewsOne Now has moved to 7 A.M. ET, be sure to watch “NewsOne Now” with Roland Martin, in its new time slot on TV One.




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