The White House said Thursday that protesters angered by the fatal police shooting of a black man in Charlotte, North Carolina, are raising “legitimate” concerns about racial disparities in the criminal-justice system.
“Those are difficult questions that must be confronted,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “They cannot be ignored.”
After a second night of rioting and confrontations with police in Charlotte, President Obama spoke by phone Thursday with North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory to receive an update on the situation.
Mr. Earnest said the president wants authorities to ensure the safety of protesters.
“The president also hopes that the rights of peaceful protesters will be protected,” he said. “But he also believes that it should be made clear that the protests must remain peaceful, and they should not be used an an excuse to engage in vandalism or violence.”
He said violence and looting “only serves to distract from the issues that should be the subject of careful public scrutiny.”
Mr. Obama convened a task force on policing in 2015 to address unrest in several major cities after a series of deaths of minorities at the hands of police. After the ambush deaths of police officers this summer in Dallas, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Mr. Obama came in for more criticism of siding with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Mr. Earnest said the president “has played a leading role in trying to discuss publicly some of these issues and to raise these policy questions as a legitimate priority.”
“The president has, unfortunately, had numerous opportunities to address this topic,” he said. “What’s clear is that there’s important work to be done in local communities all across the country to build trust and strengthen the relationship between individual, local law-enforcement.”