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Obama On Baltimore: The Country Needs ‘Soul Searching’

Baltimore Mayor: Riot Will Impact Community for Years 2:02

President Barack Obama condemned the violence that has gripped Baltimore in the wake of protests over the death of Freddie Gray who died in police custody.

The president said “there’s no excuse for the kind of violence we saw yesterday,” referring to rocks and bottles thrown at police, looting of local businesses and the destruction of a CVS that went down in flames.

"They’re not protesting. They’re not making a statement. They’re stealing," Obama said during a joint news conference with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. "It’s a handful of people taking advantage of the situation for their own purposes, and they need to be treated as criminals."

But in a lengthy response to a question about the latest protest in response to the death of a young black man by police, Obama also said the problem is not new and that the entire country needs to "do some soul-searching."

Baltimore Mayor: Riot Will Impact Community for Years 2:02

“If we really want to solve the problem, we could. It would require everybody to say this is important, this is significant and that we just don’t pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, when a young man is shot or when his spine is snapped.”

He said investment is needed in the communities to bring economic opportunity, including resources for early childhood education and criminal justice reform that breaks the school-to-prison pipeline that is “rendering young men in these communities unemployable.” He called for job training programs as well as school reforms.

“That’s hard,” he said, adding that it “takes a kind of political motivation we haven’t seen in quite some time.”

“That was a really long answer but I felt pretty strongly about it,” the president concluded.

— Leigh Ann Caldwell