President Barack Obama says many Americans are “troubled” by the video showing police wrestling to the ground a New York man who later died. But he said the availability of such images can spark conversations that have been “a long time coming.”
“It used to be folks would say, well, maybe blacks are exaggerating, some of these situations aren’t what they describe,” Obama said in an interview with BET that aired Monday.
The president did not discuss his personal reaction to the video of Eric Garner’s encounter with police, though White House officials say he has seen it.
Obama said that as long as protests are peaceful, “I think they are necessary. When they turn violent, then they’re counterproductive.”
The president has been cautious in his public comments about the deaths of Brown and Garner, particularly in discussing the grand jury decisions. However, he has said there is a need to address the mistrust that persists between law enforcement and communities of color.
In New York City on Monday, Council members took to the streets and the council chamber to protest a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner.
About two dozen council members blocked traffic for about five minutes Monday by standing in the middle of Broadway chanting “I can’t breathe.”
The legislators, joined by clergy and activists, also staged a “die-in” on the steps of City Hall.
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who did not participate in the traffic protest, began a Council meeting by leading the room in reciting “I can’t breathe” eleven times.
The Speaker also wore a “black lives matter” T-shirt like many of her colleagues, who held a moment of silence for Eric Garner.