Attorney General William Barr said America needs to be mature in its approach on how to achieve reforms to address the nation’s issues, following calls for change after George Floyd’s death.
Barr made the comments on Thursday during a roundtable meeting with President Donald Trump, senior Trump administration officials, law enforcement, faith leaders, and small business owners where he reiterated the Justice Department’s commitment to supporting the president’s reform efforts.
The attorney general said that he did not think it is the time to be “tearing down our institutions” in order to enact change, saying that America has been “on a march” in the last 50 years to reform its institutions, which he acknowledged had been “explicitly discriminatory” up until the last 60 years.
“We have to be mature about this, and when we see problems, we have to redouble our efforts to reform our institutions and make sure they’re in sync with our values,” Barr said.
He expressed approval for the president’s plan for reform to provide and ensure opportunities to allow people to achieve the full American Dream. He said the president’s efforts stimulate economic growth, support education, nurture moral discipline, and ensure safety in the community.
The president announced a four-point plan to address police brutality and racial inequity in the United States during the meeting. His plan includes pursuing economic development in minority communities, addressing healthcare disparities, issuing an executive order to encourage police departments nationwide to meet the most current professional standards, and expanding access to education by urging Congress to enact school choice nationwide.
This comes after tens of thousands of people flooded streets across the nation over the past week to call for change after the death of Floyd, a black man who died while in the custody of Minneapolis police. While many protests were peaceful, cities saw incidents of looting, violent rioting, and arson, leading to significant property damage and more than a dozen deaths.
Amid the protests, some city officials have said they would defund or even dismantle the police, including New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio. The Minneapolis City Council on Friday unanimously passed a resolution that would eventually replace the city’s police department with a community-led public safety system.
The “Defund the Police” movement, which has been seen during protests and on social media in recent days, calls for reallocating funding destined for police departments to social programs, particularly to assist the African American community.
Meanwhile, in Seattle, dozens of activists and others commandeered part of the city following the police abandonment of a precinct building, which was the site of violent clashes with protesters. The situation in the city has prompted Trump to call on Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee to “take back” the city.
“Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will. This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stooped [sic] IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!” he said in a statement on social media.
Trump said his administration has been working on many different elements to promote law, order, safety, comfort, and control.
“What happened two weeks ago was a disgrace when you see that. What happened on numerous occasions over the last two weeks—people were killed. A number of people were killed and it was very, very terrible and very, very unfair. A number of them were police officers. And it was a very unfair situation. We don’t want to see that,” he said.
He added that his executive order would encourage police departments to “meet the most current professional standards of force.”
“That means force, but force with compassion,” he said. “But if you’re going to have to really do a job, if somebody’s really bad, you’re going to have to do it with real strength, real power.”
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.