WASHINGTON, July 14 (UPI) — President Obama hosted a sometimes tense town hall event on race Thursday, fielding questions from a variety of people on poverty, guns, police and the country’s struggle with race relations in the wake of the Dallas massacre and the recent shooting deaths of young black men by police officers.
The hour-long event, broadcast on ABC networks and moderated by ABC News anchor David Muir, was mostly calm and respectful, but also got tense at multiple points, including an exchange with Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, a vocal opponent of the president over transgender and immigration issues, also questioned his support of law enforcement.
As he sat next to the son of the man killed by police in Louisiana, Patrick asked the President if he will “strongly condemn violence” against police officers and slammed him for failing to cast the White House in blue light at night to honor police, as has similarly been done in support of gay rights.
Obama responded tersely he has “been unequivocal in condemning all rhetoric against police officers” and challenged Patrick in return to find a speech since the Ferguson shooting where he didn’t voice clear support for law enforcement.
“You’d have to find any message that did not include a very strong support for law enforcement in all my utterances dating back to Ferguson because I rely on law enforcement to protect me and my family,” Obama said.
The president told Patrick he’d “be happy to send” previous speech of police support to Patrick.
But Obama also said he can’t “pretend as if there aren’t potential problems with how police in certain communities interact.”
At the end of the broadcast, Erica Garner — the daughter of Eric Garner who was killed by New York Police officers using a chokehold in 2014 — began shouting she wasn’t allowed to ask a question.
“I was railroaded!” Erica Garner shouted. “That’s what I have to do? A black person has to yell to be heard?”
The White House confirmed that Garner was eventually able to speak with the president. The content of the brief conversation is not known.