President Barack Obama met Wednesday with activists from the Black Lives Matter movement as well as a range of law enforcement officials and community leaders in what he called an “excellent conversation” amid a spate of violence between black communities and police across the country.
“The bad news is, as we saw so painfully this week, that this is really a hard job. We’re not there yet,” Obama told reporters following the meeting.
He continued, “We’re not even close to being there yet, where we want to be. We’re not at a point yet where communities of color feel confident that their police departments are serving them with dignity and respect and equality. And we’re not at the point yet where police departments feel adequately supported at all levels.”
The meeting — which lasted over four hours — included Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Black Lives Matter activists DeRay Mckesson and Brittany Packnett.
McKesson called the meeting with Obama and leaders “productive” and that the President was “incredibly solution orientated in this conversation and pushed to challenge people to think about the concrete things that both the administration could do and law enforcement and activists could do to make sure that we address the issue of police violence head on and also that our communities are safe.”
Mckesson was recently arrested while protesting the killing of Alton Sterling, a black man, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A few days later, five officers were killed in Dallas by a sniper.
Mckesson and Bel Edwards will have much to talk about after the Louisiana governor’s state has been front and center in the policing debate, following the death of Sterling.
Other participants included mayors, law enforcement officials, activists and spiritual leaders according to the White House.
Five police chiefs were to attend, as well as four mayors, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
State and local lawmakers were also in attendance.
Other activists present include the Rev. Al Sharpton and NAACP President Cornell Brooks.
“There are people who are participating in this meeting who have uttered public comments that have not been 100% supportive of what the President has said,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday. “What will also be a part of the conversation today is, what can local political leaders do more of? What can law enforcement officials do more of? What can civil rights leaders do more of? What can community leaders do more to repair this trust that in too many communities has been frayed?”
The meeting was scheduled to last three hours and Obama is expected to make brief remarks at its conclusion.