President Obama plans to address the shooting deaths of minorities by police as well as attacks on officers at a memorial service Tuesday for the five Dallas police officers killed in an ambush by a black sniper.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that Mr. Obama “recognizes that it’s not just people in Dallas who are grieving.”
“It’s people all across the country who are concerned about the violence that so many Americans have witnessed in the last week or so,” Mr. Earnest said. “This is violence that we’ve been witnessing not just in the last week, but far too often over the last several years. And I think many Americans are troubled by it.”
Mr. Obama will speak at the interfaith service in Dallas for the officers killed Thursday night during a Black Lives Matter protest. The gunman, Micah X. Johnson, told police he wanted to kill white officers, although the president has said it’s hard to know his true motives.
Police killed Johnson with a bomb-carrying robot.
The president is renewing his focus on racial disparities in the criminal justice system and police practices in minority communities after cutting short a trip to Europe in the wake of the slayings of the officers in Dallas.
He dropped in on a White House meeting with law enforcement officials Monday to show his support for police, his spokesman said, and he will convene a meeting Wednesday in Washington with police, civil rights leaders, community activists and others.
Also attending the memorial service in Dallas will be first lady Michelle Obama; Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his wife, Jill; former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush. The president is also expected to meet with families of the fallen officers in Dallas.
As Mr. Obama expresses support for the Black Lives Matter movement, he has increasingly alienated law enforcement officials and has been accused of encouraging attacks on police.
A poll Monday showed that Americans are more concerned about attacks on police than they are about police shootings of civilians.
The survey of 2,000 adults by Morning Consult found that 56 percent of voters said they had very serious concerns about violence against police, but only 45 percent said the same about police violence against the public.
Among different racial and ethnic groups, there were similar levels of concern about attacks on police. Fifty-seven percent of white voters said they were concerned about violence against police officers, while 52 percent of blacks and 53 percent of Hispanic voters said the same thing.
There was a gap when voters were asked whether police violence against the public was a serious concern. Seventy-eight percent of blacks said they seriously fear police violence against the public, but only 39 percent of white voters shared that view.
The White House now seems to agree with the Dallas police that Johnson was deliberately shooting white officers. Three days ago in Europe, Mr. Obama said it’s “very hard to untangle the motives of this shooter.”
On Monday, however, Mr. Earnest said people of all races were “appalled at the way that a shooter targeted white cops.”
“There was almost unanimous condemnation of that act, and I think that reflects the unity that exists in our country,” he said.
Mr. Earnest said the president believes it’s appropriate to discuss not only the deaths of the officers at the memorial service, but also to raise the problem of minorities being killed by police, such as incidents last week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Falcon Heights, Minnesota.
“There is anxiety across the country about the shootings we saw in two other communities of black men by police officers,” Mr. Earnest said. “The president senses that anxiety across the country as well. I would expect the president to touch on that as well.”
Mr. Earnest said there is frustration about police shootings of minorities not only among residents of black communities, but also “in the minds, and hearts and conscience of fair-minded Americans of all races.”
Others on the left are calling on Mr. Obama to visit Minnesota and Louisiana, not just Dallas, to show more support for minorities.
“To avoid either is to misread the pain that his most loyal constituency, black folk, are feeling in this present moment,” Tavis Smiley wrote in USA Today. “I don’t envy the current challenge the president has to balance respect for law enforcement with a deeper appreciation for the sanctity of black life in America.”