- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 14, 2016

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick challenged President Obama at a town hall meeting on race relations Thursday to “strongly condemn” violence against police officers, a move that appeared to irritate the president.

At a televised session in a Washington theater, Mr. Patrick, a Republican, asked the president to “turn on the blue lights” at the White House to show support for police officers. The White House has rejected the suggestion.

Mr. Patrick told the president that, in addition to such a gesture, his words about police matter.

“I’m concerned that police officers across the country — they know you support law enforcement of course, but do they really in their heart feel like you’re doing everything you can to protect their lives?” Mr. Patrick said to Mr. Obama.

The Republican added: “Words matter, your words matter much more than mine. Everything you say matters. And I would ask you to consider being careful when there is an incident of not being too quick to condemn the police without due process and until the facts are known.”

Mr. Obama replied coolly, “I’m aware that my words matter deeply. I have been unequivocal in condemning any rhetoric directed at police officers.”

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The president, who spoke in support of the Black Lives Matter movement at a memorial service in Dallas this week for five slain officers, also said he has made statements of support for police repeatedly. He told Mr. Patrick that he should search online for all the times that Mr. Obama has stated that there is no justification for violence against the police.

“I’ll be happy to send it to you,” Mr. Obama said.

The meeting on police-minority relations also was disrupted at its conclusion by the daughter of a man killed by police, screaming that she wasn’t allowed to question the president.

Erica Garner, daughter of the late Eric Garner of New York City, began yelling at the event produced by ABC News about her lack of participation.

“I was railroaded! I was railroaded by ABC on the two-year anniversary of my father’s death!” she yelled. Eric Garner died on July 17, 2014.

“That’s what I have to do? A black person has to yell to be heard?”

The White House said she was able to speak with the president briefly before he departed.

As police departments across the country geared up for more Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the White House on Thursday called the street protests “a good thing.”

Military bases posted warnings to personnel to stay away from public-gathering spots Friday evening in 37 cities such as Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, “due to potential protests and criminal activity.” Others said the online call for a “Day of Rage” across the U.S. is likely a hoax.

But after the assassinations of five police officers in Dallas last week at a Black Lives Matter protest, and the arrests of hundreds of demonstrators in major cities in the past week over the shooting deaths of two black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, law enforcement officials acknowledge being on edge.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the Black Lives Matter protests could help bring about reforms in police departments.

“I would not describe the White House as concerned about these protests,” Mr. Earnest said. “They’re exercising their freedom of speech, they’re exercising their freedom of assembly. That’s a good thing. That’s a good start.”

After a meeting with police and civil rights leaders earlier in the week, Mr. Obama said the U.S. is “not even close” to resolving the tensions between minority communities and police departments.

“We will see more tension,” he said.

Some black leaders are saying they plan to devote more attention to the crisis this year than to the presidential election, a possible complication for presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. It’s unclear how the racial tensions might play out in the campaign, but presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump this week began referring to himself as the “law and order” candidate.

A coalition of law-enforcement officials told Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton in a letter this week that reducing arrests and imprisoning fewer Americans are the key to promoting “law and order.” The letter from the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the National District Attorneys Association and other groups said rehabilitation and shorter prison sentences are the path to reducing crime.

“Though this may seem counterintuitive, we know from our experience as law enforcement officials that over-relying on incarceration does not deter crime,” they wrote. “With finite prison space, we believe prison should be used for the most dangerous offenders.”

With only six months left in Mr. Obama’s presidency, his spokesman said there’s only so much the president can do to resolve the long-simmering problems between police and minorities in many communities.

“The president will do his part,” Mr. Earnest said. “But he’s not at all going to be able to do this alone. It’s not something that the president of the United States is going to be able to do just by delivering a thoughtful, eloquent, powerful speech. This is mostly going to fall on the shoulders of men and women of goodwill in law enforcement, in elected office, in faith communities, churches, and mosques, and synagogues, at universities, high schools, and homes.”

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