President Barack Obama held a virtual town hall on Wednesday afternoon (June 3) to address the nation following widespread protests sparked by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and other Black men, women and children in America. The town hall was organized by My Brother's Keeper Alliance, the organization Obama founded in the wake of the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012.
The former president began his remarks by issuing a direct message to people of color.
"I want to speak directly to the young men and women of color in this country," he said. "I want you to know that you matter. I want you to know that your lives matter. That your dreams matter."
He then remarked on the protests, now in their ninth consecutive day, that are taking place in over 100 cities across the country. Obama, who began his political career as a community organizer, said he felt that "there is something different" about protests today than in the 1960s.
"You've communicated a sense of urgency that is as powerful and as transformative as anything that I've seen in recent years," he said. "There is a change in mindset that's taking place, a greater recognition, that we can do better."
He then provided some direct instructions on how to move forward from this moment. “Make people in power uncomfortable,” he advised the audience.
He also made a direct appeal to local elected officials who are grappling with how to deal with the rising policing crisis and the anger it's causing in their cities. After the Ferguson uprising in 2014, Obama, along with Attorney General Eric Holder, created the Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which detailed how elected officials, especially mayors, can change the culture around policing.
Obama made a specific demand for mayors to revisit the Task Force on 21st Century Policing, saying, "A lot of mayors and local elected officials, read and supported the Task Force report but then there wasn't enough follow-through."
He continued, "Today, I'm urging every mayor in this country to review your use-of-force policies with members of your community, and commit to reforms."
Obama also added, "We have more information and more data as to what works and there are organizations like Campaign Zero, Color of Change and others that are out there, highlighting what the data shows that works and what doesn't in terms of reducing incidents of police misconduct and violence. Let's go ahead and start implementing those."
President Obama was joined by activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham, My Brother's Keeper youth leader Playon Patrick, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Color of Change president Rashad Robinson and others.
Watch the full town hall event, below: