Obama's meeting on race relations labelled 'a farce'

Ms Erica Garner, whose father died in 2014 after a New York City police officer placed him in a chokehold, blasted as a sham an event led by President Barack Obama this week to promote respect and civility after fatal confrontations between the polic
Ms Erica Garner, whose father died in 2014 after a New York City police officer placed him in a chokehold, blasted as a sham an event led by President Barack Obama this week to promote respect and civility after fatal confrontations between the police and African- Americans.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Daughter of man who died after a police chokehold says event exploited black pain

WASHINGTON • A town hall-style meeting led by US President Barack Obama to promote respect and civility after fatal confrontations between the police and African-Americans prompted a bitter outburst from the daughter of Mr Eric Garner, who died in 2014 after a New York City police officer placed him in a chokehold.

At the conclusion of Thursday's gathering, Ms Erica Garner angrily yelled that she had been deprived of a chance to question Mr Obama. She demanded - and later received - a private audience with him.

"I was railroaded!" she shouted, noting that the event fell exactly two years after her father's death. "That's what I have to do? A black person has to yell to be heard?"

Ms Garner also took to Twitter to complain that tough questions had been banned. She condemned the event as a "farce" that was "nothing short of full exploitation of black pain and grief". "They shut out ALL real and hard questions," she added, calling the exchange "a sham".

Reporters allowed into the theatre in Washington where the event was taped by ABC News witnessed the outburst, which Mr Obama's staff swiftly tried to defuse.

Mr Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, later said the President had visited briefly with Ms Garner, "who was upset that she didn't get called on to ask a question".

The episode highlights the anger consuming activists and advocates on both sides of the divisions over race and law enforcement in the US, and the challenges Mr Obama faces in fostering a peaceful conversation about bridging the divide.

The meeting was the latest in a series of events Mr Obama has taken part in this week to respond to killings in Louisiana and Minnesota of black men by police, and an attack days later in Dallas in which a black assailant claiming he wanted to kill white officers fatally shot five.

Mr Obama fielded questions on racial justice and policing as he worked to model the kind of conversation he has argued must take place throughout the United States to defuse tensions. Those rifts, he conceded this week, are likely to worsen before they improve.

On Wednesday, he convened a lengthy and at times contentious meeting at the White House where police representatives, elected officials and civil rights advocates aired their grievances against one another and grasped for solutions to bridge what all sides conceded was a gaping divide.

"The striking aspect of it was how different people's perspectives were," said Mr James Pasco Jr, the executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, who attended the marathon session.

"I was really struck - I went to bed that night thinking about it and woke up thinking about it in the morning - what a tremendous challenge it's going to be to repair the damage and change the perspectives that have been built up over generations."

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2016, with the headline 'Obama's meeting on race relations labelled 'a farce''. Print Edition | Subscribe