Obama Calls For Nationwide "Soul-Searching" Amid Violence In Baltimore

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On the heels of rioting and looting in the city of Baltimore, President Barack Obama on Tuesday called on Americans to do some "soul-searching" regarding the issues that contribute to the violence.

In a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Obama condemned the criminals engaging in violent acts and sought to draw a line between the rioters and the non-violent protesters.

"When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they're not protesting. They're not making a statement. They're stealing," Obama said.

He added, "When they burn down a building, they're committing arson. And they're destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities. That robs jobs and opportunity from people in that area."

The outbreak of violence on the streets of Baltimore came following the funeral for Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died of a spinal cord injury while in police custody.

Obama acknowledged that some police officers are not doing the right thing but said there is no excuse for the violence, calling it counterproductive.

The president noted that Gray's death is just the latest in a recent string of highly publicized incidents involving the use of excessive force by police.

However, Obama said the problem has been going on for a long time and said Americans shouldn't only pay attention "to these communities when a CVS burns and we don't just pay attention when a young man gets short or has his spine snapped."

"I think there are police departments that have to do some soul-searching. I think there are some communities that have to do some soul-searching," Obama said. "But I think we as a country have to do some soul-searching."

The president suggested the country could take steps to address underlying issues such as equal opportunity, poverty and drugs but argued it would take the kind of political mobilization that hasn't been seen for some time.

Obama specifically pointed to increased spending on early-childhood education and criminal justice reform as potential solutions but noted that he is dealing with a Republican-controlled Congress.

The riots in Baltimore represent an early test for newly sworn-in Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who condemned the violence in a statement on Monday.

Lynch noted that the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the FBI have an ongoing, independent criminal civil rights investigation into Gray's death.

She also said Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division, and Ronald Davis, Director of Community Oriented Policing Services, will be traveling to Baltimore in the coming days to meet with faith and community leaders as well as city officials.

"In the days ahead, I intend to work with leaders throughout Baltimore to ensure that we can protect the security and civil rights of all residents," Lynch said.

She added, "And I will bring the full resources of the Department of Justice to bear in protecting those under threat, investigating wrongdoing, and securing an end to violence."

Obama's remarks at the White House came after he held a meeting with Japan's Abe, where the trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership was expected to be a main topic of conversation.

Responding to critics of the proposed deal, Obama claimed the trade agreement would be beneficial to both American businesses and workers.

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