Obama: Protests That 'Speak to Power' Are 'Messy and Controversial' - Like Civil Rights, Abolition

Craig Bannister | July 11, 2016
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Righteous protests can get "messy and controversial" and "contentious," Pres. Obama warned on Sunday while addressing last week's deadly violence against Dallas police.

Responding to a question at a press event on Sunday, Obama compared the protests to the Civil Rights and environmental movements, Abolition, and suffrage - and cautioned that just causes can get "messy" when they "speak to power":

"With respect to your second question, one of the great things about America is that individual citizens and groups of citizens can petition their government, can protest, can speak truth to power.  And that is sometimes messy and controversial.  But because of that ability to protest and engage in free speech, America, over time, has gotten better.  We've all benefited from that. 

"The abolition movement was contentious.  The effort for women to get the right to vote was contentious and messy.  There were times when activists might have engaged in rhetoric that was overheated and occasionally counterproductive.  But the point was to raise issues so that we, as a society, could grapple with it.  The same was true with the Civil Rights Movement, the union movement, the environmental movement, the anti-war movement during Vietnam.  And I think what you're seeing now is part of that longstanding tradition."

Obama excused some of the protests and anger towards police as "just venting" - and called it "tragic" that the officers killed were the ones who were actually trying to mend their ways:

"Now, this week, people felt hurt and angry, and so some of this is just venting.  But I think that the overwhelming majority of people who are involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, what they really want to see is a better relationship between the police and the community so that they can feel that it's serving them.  And the best way to do that is to bring allies forward.  That means -- that includes, by the way, the police departments that are doing the right thing, like Dallas, which has implemented the very reforms that Black Lives Matter has been seeking.

"That's part of why it's so tragic that those officers were targeted in Dallas, a place that is -- because of its transparency and training and openness and engagement in the community -- has drastically brought down the number of police shootings and complaints about misconduct."