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President Obama to Baltimore Activist Kwame Rose: Describing Looting as a Political Act is ‘Counterproductive’

pjimage-5-2The city of Baltimore erupted into chaos last April following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American man who died of severe spinal injuries sustained while in the custody of Baltimore police officers.

Tensions had been building for days after Gray’s death, with multiple standoffs between protesters and local police.

President Obama angered many social justice advocates when he referred to protesters as “criminals and thugs who tore up” the city during a White House press conference the next day on April 28.

“When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting,” he said at the time. “They’re not making a statement. They’re stealing.”

Critics accused the president of employing the same racial coded language often used by politicians and members of the media.

Empowerment Temple AME Church pastor Jamal Bryant, who delivered Gray’s eulogy, called Obama’s statements and similar ones made by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake acts of “Black-on-Black crime,” in an interview with Fox’s Megan Kelly.

“They have committed Black-on-Black crime by using that word against people who look just like them. Absolutely,” Bryant said, per Mediaite.

Baltimore activist Kwame Rose, who was arrested during the maelstrom, was another of the president’s strongest attackers. He told NPR Morning Edition‘s Steve Inkeep that Obama spoke prematurely, without taking into account the stories behind each of the individuals captured on camera that day.

“I was one of the people he called a thug and criminal,” he said. “I was out there.”

Rose also slammed the notion of separating the frustrated protesters into two different groups: peaceful demonstrators and violent looters.

“I was there first hand [to] experience watching people run into the stores. I didn’t interpret it as violence. I interpreted it as a survival skill, a survival tactic,” he added.

When asked whether the president has been supportive of the cause, Rose was blunt.

“No, I don’t think the president has done anything for Black people.”

Inkeep gave the president a chance to respond to Rose in an interview published to the public radio site Wednesday morning. Obama said opponents need only look at his administration’s efforts for criminal justice reform.

“What I would also say is that if somebody is looting, they’re looting. And the notion that they’re making a political statement is not always the case,” he said, echoing his previous sentiments about the matter.

“Because these are businesses that oftentimes are owned by African-Americans. You have situations in which suddenly — friends of mine in Baltimore — their mothers who are elderly have to now travel across town to get their medicines because the local drug store got torn up.”

The president said making excuses for the destructive protesters was a “mistake” and suggested alternative methods of affecting change in the justice system.

“There are ways of bringing about social change that are powerful and that have the ability to pull the country together and maintain the moral high ground. And where I understand the frustrations, but they’re counterproductive and tearing.”

As for charges that he has become a part of the corrupt system, Obama said he’s an easy target, as holder of the nation’s high office.

“I think that you can always find folks who are going to feel as if change hasn’t happened fast enough,” he said. “If there’s a problem out there, then I’m the ultimate public official that people know. And if it hasn’t gotten fixed within a couple weeks, people are gonna say, ‘Why didn’t you fix it?’ “

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3 thoughts on “President Obama to Baltimore Activist Kwame Rose: Describing Looting as a Political Act is ‘Counterproductive’

  1. Only an idealistic 'freshman' college student, off campus, and ghetto-slumming would say this: “I was there first hand [to] experience watching people run into the stores. I didn’t interpret it as violence. I interpreted it as a survival skill, a survival tactic,” –Kwame Brown

  2. James Green says:

    the fact that the riots took place in the very neighborhoods as the rioters was unfortunate, but the result was effective in the fact that no body believes that if the youth in my city of baltimore didnt put a halt to the economic revenue stream that the city relies on, nothing would have happened. The extreme measures the youth took to be heard propelled the head attorney to charge…forced the head policeman to resign..and forced the world to look at Police Brutality and the Criminal Justice System in a way that , atleast for a second brought HOPE that ACCOUNTABILTY would take its course. the day of the passive negro is long gone!! when we say NO JUSTICE NO PEACE..we mean it!! I'm even putting together a forum of minds that looks to confront the outright assault on melinated America..I sent out alot of invites hopefully a representative from law enforcement, the D.A.s office, Civil rights Orgs., and city/state Politicians come and lend their voices..political correctness isnt allowed!! if you are interested dont hesitate to reach out!! Warrior Up!

  3. No, they burned down the right place, the chinaman, the arabman, the jewman who was looting the african american community. They practiced self inflicted reparations and had the right to, no different than the Boston Tea Party.
    Now we must mobilize to take over political offices, we can no longer rely on Obamas of the world to behave fairly, we must take the DA's office and the police force, the police chief, the judge's office, we can only get fairness if we are deciding what is fair, otherwise we will continue to see people like Eric Garner and La Quan MacDonald MURDERED on VIDEO and not a damn death sentence for the officer.

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