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Obama: 'Not close' to closing racial divide

July 14, 2016

President Obama has encouraged Americans to "sit down and grind it out" to fix relations between minority communities and police. Talks in Washington have come amidst the first funerals for the fallen Dallas officers.

U.S. President Barack Obama meets activists, civil rights, faith, law enforcement and elected leaders to discuss ways to keep people safe
Image: picture-alliance/abaca/O. Douliery

There is a lot of work to be done in order to heal the split between police forces and people of color, said US President Barack Obama after a roundtable meeting with community and police members late Wednesday.

The talks were held in the wake of last week's high-profile police shootings of black men and a deadly attack on Dallas police officers. Nearly three dozen people from cities across the country attended the talks, including community activists from the Black Lives Matter movement, politicians, and law enforcement officials.

Following the three-hour talks, the president admitted that progress towards mutually beneficial solutions will take time and will be hard.

"We are not even close to being there yet, where we want to be," he said. He encouraged the participants and the nation to repeat the "respectful conversations" held at the roundtable.

"We have to, as a country, sit down and just grind it out, to solve these problems," Obama said.

Police and activists alike left the meeting saying that although they didn't agree on all issues, they felt the meeting was productive and was a first step to rebuilding trust in communities.

"I think that too often we comment about statistics. This isn't about statistics from one side or another. This is about emotion. This is about people's lives," said Terry Cunningham, the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

"This is about fear in the community, and it's our job to make people safe," he added.

Funerals for fallen officers

Public funerals were also held on Wednesday for two of the five officers killed in Dallas, Texas last week. Onlookers paid their respects to Lorne Ahrens and Brent Thompson as the funeral processions coursed along area roads.

Thousands of police attended the church services who described Ahrens as a "gentle giant" and Thompson as a "family man" and joker. Further funerals are set to take place on Thursday and Saturday.

The five officers were shot and killed by 25-year-old Army veteran Micah Johnson, who told authorities that he was angry about the recent spate of police shootings which killed Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota.

On Tuesday, Obama spoke at a memorial service in Dallas for the slain officers and condemned rhetoric which called for hurting police, but insisted: "We are not as divided as we seem."

Thousands gather to mourn in Dallas

rs/jil (AP, AFP, dpa)

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