President Barack Obama and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for greater tolerance, respect and understanding from police and the people they are charged with protecting.
Obama, after meeting with Spain’s acting prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, spoke for the fourth straight day about the issues growing from shootings by police and of police officers.
“I’d like all sides to listen to each other,” Obama said. “Maintaining a truthful and serious and respectful tone is going to help mobilize American society to bring about real change.”
De Blasio urged New Yorkers to not abandon hope as the nation and city work to overcome a history of racism.
The country has “a history of division, a history of discrimination” that began 400 years ago, and recent incidents could very easily lead to cynicism, he said.
“We have to be honest about structural racism,” he told a predominantly black audience at Bethel Gospel Assembly in Harlem. “We have no choice but to build something better in our time. And let this city be an example.”
De Blasio, who has two biracial children, added, “The last thing that we should do is walk away, retreat, fail to believe that we can make the next level of progress.”
He issued a call for unity later in the morning at a packed St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, saying New Yorkers must show the nation a better path. He called police officers “guardians” of the community.
“We’re far, far from perfect, but we’ve come a long way,” he said at St. Patrick’s.
De Blasio also spoke at an annual salsa and stickball festival in heavily Latino East Harlem, focusing on the need to reach across cultural divides.
New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton also talked about the need for better understanding. He told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that now is a “time of great pressure” for police officers.
He noted the increasing diversity of the NYPD, saying he wants the force to reflect the city’s residents.
“We don’t bring them in from Mars. They come from the communities they police,” Bratton said. “... And that’s a good thing because the community wants to see that and that’s part of the way we bridge the divide that currently exists between police and community.”
With Alison Fox and The Associated Press