President Barack Obama has praised police in Dallas for protecting Americans' right to protest. He called for unity in the wake of the killings of five officers in the city.
Obama spoke at the Dallas memorial on Tuesday for five police officers who were killed by a lone gunman last week. "We know that the overwhelming majority of police officers do an incredibly hard and dangerous job fairly and professionally," Obama said. "They are deserving of our respect and not our scorn."
Politicians, police officers and families of the dead officers attended the ceremony.
"And when anyone, no matter how good their intentions may be, paints all police as biased or bigoted, we undermine those officers we depend on for our safety," Obama added.
"We mourn fewer people today because of your brave actions," Obama told his audience at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. "Despite the fact that police conduct was the subject of the protest, despite the fact that there must have been signs or slogans or chants with which they profoundly disagreed, these men and this department did their jobs as the professionals that they were."
While Obama said the attack would appear to have exposed the "the deepest fault line of our democracy," he said that Americans must reject such despair. The president commented: "I know that Americans are struggling right now with what we witnessed in the past week," Obama said. "I'm here to say we must reject such despair. I'm here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem."
Obama condemned rhetoric suggesting harm to police, saying it did a disservice to the cause of justice." The president also said that "race relations have improved dramatically in my lifetime" but that no individual or institution was entirely immune to racial bias.
The president, who has tried to implement changes to the laws on gun control, said: "I've been to too many of these things," in reference to memorials for people across America who have died in gun attacks.
Also at the ceremony was former President George W. Bush, who lives near Dallas. Bush echoed Obama's sentiments: "At times it feels like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity," Bush said. "We do not want the unity of grief nor do we want the unity of fear. We want the unity of hope, affection and high purpose."
Following the ceremony Obama planned to meet with the families of the policemen who died and with others who were wounded.
jm/msh,kl (AP, Reuters)