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Barack Obama insists US 'is not divided' after spate of shootings

Published 09/07/2016

President Barack Obama is cutting short a trip to Europe following the Dallas shootings (AP)
President Barack Obama is cutting short a trip to Europe following the Dallas shootings (AP)

President Barack Obama on Saturday rejected the notion that this week's stunning violence is a signal that the US has returned to some of the darkest days of its past, saying that as painful as the killings of police and black men were: "America is not as divided as some have suggested."

"Americans of all races and all backgrounds are rightly outraged by the inexcusable attacks on police, whether it's in Dallas or any place else," Mr Obama said from Warsaw, Poland, where he attended a Nato summit.

"That includes protesters. It includes family members who have grave concerns about police conduct and they've said that this is unacceptable," Mr Obama added. "There's no division there."

The comments marked the third time in as many days that Mr Obama has spoken, from a distance, about the police-involved fatal shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota that were immediately followed by a sniper attack in Dallas that killed five police officers on Thursday night. Seven officers and two civilians were also injured.

"This has been a tough week," the president said.

Mr Obama said the Dallas shooter, an Army veteran who was later killed by police, was a "demented individual" who does not represent black Americans, any more than a white man accused of killing blacks at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, represents whites.

Mr Obama said he would visit Dallas "in a few days" to pay respects and mourn with the stricken Texas city.

He said that while "there is sorrow, there is anger, there is confusion" about how the US moves forward "there's unity in recognising that this is not how we want our communities to operate. This is not who we want to be as Americans and that serves as the basis for us being able to move forward in a constructive and positive way."

"So we cannot let the actions of a few define all of us," Mr Obama said.

The president said he planned to convene a White House meeting next week with police officers, community and civil rights activists and other to talk about next steps. He said the "empathy and understanding" that Americans have shown in responding to the events of the past few days, including Dallas police officers as they came under attack, had given him hope.

A Dallas Area Rapid Transit police officer receives comfort at the Baylor University Hospital emergency room entrance Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Dallas (Ting Shen/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
A Dallas Area Rapid Transit police officer receives comfort at the Baylor University Hospital emergency room entrance Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Dallas (Ting Shen/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
Dallas Police respond after shots were fired during a protest of fatal police shootings earlier this week in Louisiana and Minnesota, Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Dallas. (Maria R. Olivas/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
Dallas Police respond after shots were fired at a Black Lives Matter rally in downtown Dallas on Thursday, July 7, 2016. Dallas protestors rallied in the aftermath of the killing of Alton Sterling by police officers in Baton Rouge, La. and Philando Castile, who was killed by police less than 48 hours later in Minnesota. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)
Dallas police respond after shots were fired during a protest over recent fatal shootings by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Dallas. Snipers opened fire on police officers during protests; several officers were killed, police said. (Maria R. Olivas/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
People rally in Dallas, Texas, on Thursday, July 7, 2016 to protest the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Black motorist Philando Castile, 32, a school cafeteria worker, was shot at close range by a Minnesota cop and seen bleeding to death in a graphic video shot by his girlfriend that went viral Thursday, the second fatal police shooting to rock America in as many days. / AFP PHOTO / Laura BuckmanLAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images
People rally in Dallas, Texas, on Thursday, July 7, 2016 to protest the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Black motorist Philando Castile, 32, a school cafeteria worker, was shot at close range by a Minnesota cop and seen bleeding to death in a graphic video shot by his girlfriend that went viral Thursday, the second fatal police shooting to rock America in as many days. / AFP PHOTO / Laura BuckmanLAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images
A woman takes pictures of the rally in Dallas, Texas, on Thursday, July 7, 2016 to protest the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Black motorist Philando Castile, 32, a school cafeteria worker, was shot at close range by a Minnesota cop and seen bleeding to death in a graphic video shot by his girlfriend that went viral Thursday, the second fatal police shooting to rock America in as many days. / AFP PHOTO / Laura BuckmanLAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images
Dallas police detain a driver after several police officers were shot in downtown Dallas, Thursday, July 7, 2016. Snipers apparently shot police officers during protests and some of the officers are dead, the city's police chief said in a statement. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Dallas Police shield bystanders after shots were fired Thursday, July 7, 2016, during a protest over two recent fatal police shootings of black men. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
Police officers stand guard at a baracade following the sniper shooting in Dallas on July 7, 2016. A fourth police officer was killed and two suspected snipers were in custody after a protest late Thursday against police brutality in Dallas, authorities said. One suspect had turned himself in and another who was in a shootout with SWAT officers was also in custody, the Dallas Police Department tweeted. / AFP PHOTO / Laura BuckmanLAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images
People rally in Dallas, Texas, on Thursday, July 7, 2016 to protest the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Black motorist Philando Castile, 32, a school cafeteria worker, was shot at close range by a Minnesota cop and seen bleeding to death in a graphic video shot by his girlfriend that went viral Thursday, the second fatal police shooting to rock America in as many days. / AFP PHOTO / Laura BuckmanLAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images
A man holds a bat reading "Black Power" during a protest in Dallas, Texas, on Thursday, July 7, 2016 to protest the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Black motorist Philando Castile, 32, a school cafeteria worker, was shot at close range by a Minnesota cop and seen bleeding to death in a graphic video shot by his girlfriend that went viral Thursday, the second fatal police shooting to rock America in as many days. / AFP PHOTO / Laura BuckmanLAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images
Protesters march during a Black Live Matter rally in downtown Dallas on Thursday, July 7, 2016. Multiple media outlets report that shots were fired later Thursday during the protest over two recent fatal police shootings of black men. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
A Police officer stands guard at a baracade following the sniper shooting in Dallas on July 7, 2016. A fourth police officer was killed and two suspected snipers were in custody after a protest late Thursday against police brutality in Dallas, authorities said. One suspect had turned himself in and another who was in a shootout with SWAT officers was also in custody, the Dallas Police Department tweeted. / AFP PHOTO / Laura BuckmanLAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images
Police cars sit on Main Street in Dallas following the sniper shooting during a protest on July 7, 2016. A fourth police officer was killed and two suspected snipers were in custody after a protest late Thursday against police brutality in Dallas, authorities said. One suspect had turned himself in and another who was in a shootout with SWAT officers was also in custody, the Dallas Police Department tweeted. / AFP PHOTO / Laura BuckmanLAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images
Police attempt to calm the crowd as someone is arrested following the sniper shooting in Dallas on July 7, 2016. A fourth police officer was killed and two suspected snipers were in custody after a protest late Thursday against police brutality in Dallas, authorities said. One suspect had turned himself in and another who was in a shootout with SWAT officers was also in custody, the Dallas Police Department tweeted. / AFP PHOTO / Laura BuckmanLAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images
Police cars sit on Main Street in Dallas following the sniper shooting during a protest on July 7, 2016. A fourth police officer was killed and two suspected snipers were in custody after a protest late Thursday against police brutality in Dallas, authorities said. One suspect had turned himself in and another who was in a shootout with SWAT officers was also in custody, the Dallas Police Department tweeted. / AFP PHOTO / Laura BuckmanLAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images
Police cars sit on Main Street in Dallas following the sniper shooting during a protest on July 7, 2016. A fourth police officer was killed and two suspected snipers were in custody after a protest late Thursday against police brutality in Dallas, authorities said. One suspect had turned himself in and another who was in a shootout with SWAT officers was also in custody, the Dallas Police Department tweeted. / AFP PHOTO / Laura BuckmanLAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images
Bystanders stand near pollice baracades following the sniper shooting in Dallas on July 7, 2016. A fourth police officer was killed and two suspected snipers were in custody after a protest late Thursday against police brutality in Dallas, authorities said. One suspect had turned himself in and another who was in a shootout with SWAT officers was also in custody, the Dallas Police Department tweeted. / AFP PHOTO / Laura BuckmanLAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images
DALLAS, TX - JULY 7: Dallas police and residents stand near the scene where four Dallas police officers were shot and killed on July 7, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. According to reports, shots were fired during a protest being held in downtown Dallas in response to recent fatal shootings of two black men by police - Alton Sterling on July 5, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile on July 6, 2016, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JULY 7: Dallas police stand near the scene where four Dallas police officers were shot and killed on July 7, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. According to reports, shots were fired during a protest being held in downtown Dallas in response to recent fatal shootings of two black men by police - Alton Sterling on July 5, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile on July 6, 2016, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JULY 7: Dallas residents stand near the scene where four Dallas police officers were shot and killed on July 7, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. According to reports, shots were fired during a protest being held in downtown Dallas in response to recent fatal shootings of two black men by police - Alton Sterling on July 5, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile on July 6, 2016, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
A Dallas police officer walks past a closed garage entrance Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Dallas. Snipers opened fire on police officers during protests; some of the officers were killed, police said. (Maria R. Olivas/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
A mother tries to calm her daughter as Dallas police respond to shots being fired during a protest over recent fatal shootings by police in Louisiana and Minnesota,Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Dallas. Snipers opened fire on police officers during protests; several officers were killed, police said. (Maria R. Olivas/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
Dallas police respond after shots were fired during a protest over recent fatal shootings by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Dallas. Snipers opened fire on police officers during protests; several officers were killed, police said. (Maria R. Olivas/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
A mother covers her children as Dallas police respond to shots being fired during a protest over recent fatal shootings by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Dallas. Snipers opened fire on police officers during protests; several officers were killed, police said. (Maria R. Olivas/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
Dallas police move to detains a driver after several police officers were shot in downtown Dallas, Thursday, July 7, 2016. Snipers apparently shot police officers during protests and some of the officers are dead, the city's police chief said in a statement. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Dallas police respond after shots were fired during a protest over recent fatal shootings by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Dallas. Snipers opened fire on police officers during protests; several officers were killed, police said. (Maria R. Olivas/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
Dallas police respond after shots were fired during a protest over recent fatal shootings by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Dallas. Snipers opened fire on police officers during protests; several officers were killed, police said. (Maria R. Olivas/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
A Dallas police officer covers his face as he stands with others outside the emergency room at Baylor University Medical Center, Friday, July 8, 2016, in Dallas. Snipers opened fire on police officers in the heart of Dallas on Thursday night, killing some of the officers. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Police check a car early Friday, July 8, 2016, in Dallas, Snipers opened fire on police officers in Dallas on Thursday night; some of the officers were killed, police said. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
A Dallas police vehicle that has damage to the upper rear door and a red fluid stain beneath the same door is hauled away from the Baylor University Medical Center emergency room, Friday, July 8, 2016, in Dallas. Snipers opened fire on police officers in the heart of Dallas on Thursday night, killing some of the officers. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
TOPSHOT - Bystanders stand near pollice baracades following the sniper shooting in Dallas on July 7, 2016. A fourth police officer was killed and two suspected snipers were in custody after a protest late Thursday against police brutality in Dallas, authorities said. One suspect had turned himself in and another who was in a shootout with SWAT officers was also in custody, the Dallas Police Department tweeted. / AFP PHOTO / Laura BuckmanLAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images
A Dallas police officer, who did not want to be identified, takes a moment as she guards an intersection in the early morning after a shooting in downtown Dallas, Friday, July 8, 2016. At least two snipers opened fire on police officers during protests in Dallas on Thursday night; some of the officers were killed, police said. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

"That's the spirit that we all need to embrace. That's the spirit that I want to build on," Mr Obama said.

But Mr Obama made clear that he will continue to speak out about the need to tighten access to guns in the United States, steps the Republican-controlled Congress has refused to go along with.

"I am going to keep on talking about the fact that we cannot eliminate all racial tension in our country overnight," he said. "We are not going to be able to identify, ahead of time, and eliminate every madman or troubled individual who might want to do harm against innocent people. But we can make it harder for them to do so."

AP

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