Former President Barack Obama is calling on those protesting police brutality and the alleged murder of George Floyd to ensure their anger is heard on Election Day in a new Medium post that offers a roadmap for how to enact change once the protesting ends.
Obama published the post on Monday after a weekend of massive protests in dozens of American cities. In it, he praised the overwhelming majority of protesters who exercised their First Amendment rights peacefully, and urged condemnation of the smaller number who resorted to damaging businesses and setting fires.
“If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves,” he wrote.
Obama has weighed in frequently during the coronavirus crisis, amplifying policy ideas and holding a call with local officials to offer advice and answer questions. And he spoke out last week about the killing of Floyd, calling for an end to bigotry in American institutions.
He offered more advice to protesters in his Medium post, urging them to show up for local elections for the district attorneys, mayors, and county officials that have the most direct oversight of policing in cities across the US.
“Unfortunately, voter turnout in these local races is usually pitifully low, especially among young people — which makes no sense given the direct impact these offices have on social justice issues, not to mention the fact that who wins and who loses those seats is often determined by just a few thousand, or even a few hundred, votes,” Obama wrote.
“We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform,” he added.
Obama also called on protesters to rally around a clear set of demands, arguing it’s an effective way to hold politicians accountable.
“The more specific we can make demands for criminal justice and police reform, the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away,” he wrote.
In the case of the protests in Minneapolis and elsewhere, protesters — along with Floyd’s family — have called on the three other officers involved in his death to be arrested and face charges. They have also called on Derek Chauvin, the officer who has been arrested and charged in Floyd’s death, to face more serious first-degree murder charges. Minnesota prosecutors have charged Chauvin with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.