Wednesday, April 29, 2015
President Obama Addresses Baltimore Riots on The Steve Harvey Morning Show: 'Police Need to Build More Trust'
President Barack Obama once again condemned the violent riots in Baltimorein the wake of 25-year-old Freddie Gray's death, as he spoke on The Steve Harvey Morning Show Wednesday.
"Unfortunately we've seen these police-related killings or deaths too often now, and obviously everybody is starting to recognize that this is not just an isolated incident in Ferguson or New York, but we've got some broader issues," Obama told host Steve Harvey on the radio show.
"The kind of violence that we saw from a handful of individuals in Baltimore – there's no excuse for that," he said. "That's just criminal behavior. It's counter-productive because it hurts the very communities that are already suffering a tragedy with Freddie Gray's death."
Gray died after suffering a spinal injury while in police custody earlier this month. His family called for an end to the horrific violence, which saw rioters setting fire to buildings across Baltimore on Monday evening. "Instead what you got is focus on a CVS burning," Obama said. "People who engage in that kind of violence, it needs to stop."
He added: "My hope is that people heed the call of Freddie Gray's family."
Obama went on to say that it's important for all communities, not just Baltimore, to address these problems in a serious way. "This is not just a job for the Justice Department; it's a job for all of us as a society."
While he commended the police officers who have helped quell the unrest in Baltimore, he urged them to try to focus on building up their relationship with the community in the future.
Police officers "have got to build more trust. It's in their interest to root out people who aren't doing their job … instead of the closing of the ranks we see," Obama said.
"My heart goes out to the police officers who were injured in the past few days," he added. "They showed extraordinary restraint … It shows how tough a job like policing can be."
Continued Obama: "We put them into communities … where young people think it's much more likely they're going to prison than going to college … You've got communities that have been disinvested for years. If you send police officers into those situations, where the drug trade is the primary economy and you say your job is to basically contain that … then it's not surprising that you end up with a situation of enormous tension between those communities and those police officers.
"We're not going to change this overnight," Obama concluded. "It requires focus."
President Obama has condemned as inexcusable the looting and arson that spread across the face of the city after of Mr. Gray’s funeral. But he also implied that the Baltimore Police Department had “to do some soul-searching.” Indeed it does: A well-documented history of extreme brutality and misconduct set the stage for just this kind of unrest.Proof can be found in a meticulously reported investigation by The Baltimore Sun of lawsuits and settlements that had been generated by police-brutality claims. “Over the past four years,” the investigation noted, “more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations.” The victims included a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant woman who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.
The report, published last fall, detailed what it called “a frightful human toll” inflicted by the police: broken bones, head trauma, organ failure, and even death, occurring during questionable arrests. It found that judges and prosecutors routinely dismissed charges against the victims and that city policies helped to hide the extent of the human damage. Settlements prohibited the victims from making public statements. The Sun estimated that the cash-strapped city had spent $5.7 million on settlements and $5.8 million on legal fees since January 2011.Baltimore residents were familiar with these and other stories of police abuse when Mr. Gray’s case fell into the public spotlight earlier this month. The police chased and apprehended him on April 12, allegedly because he had “made eye contact” with a lieutenant and then ran away. Cellphone videos of his arrest showed him being dragged into a police van, appearing limp and screaming in pain. The police have acknowledged that they delayed in calling for medical help. When he arrived at the police station, medics rushed him to the hospital, where he slipped into a coma and died a week later. His family has said that 80 percent of his spinal cord was severed and that his larynx had been crushed. This account is at odds with a police report claiming that “the defendant was arrested without force or incident.”
The Baltimore Police Department has a particularly egregious history and has entered into a voluntary reform agreement with the Justice Department. But there is no reason to believe that it is unique in terms of its toxic relations with the people it is meant to protect.Indeed, over the last five years, the Justice Department has opened 21 investigations into local police departments around the country and is enforcing reform agreements with 15 departments, some investigated by previous administrations. Mr. Obama was right on the mark when he observed on Tuesday that tensions with law enforcement had simmered in African-American communities for decades and now seemed to be bursting into view once a week. “This has been a slow-rolling crisis,” he said. “This has been going on for a long time. This is not new, and we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new.” He also said that addressing the problem would require not only new police tactics but new policies aimed at helping communities where jobs have disappeared, improving education and helping ex-offenders find jobs. The big mistake, he said, is that we tend to focus on these communities only when buildings are burning down.
By Jim Malone
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke out on the unrest in Baltimore Wednesday in a speech in New York. She is the first presidential candidate to publicly address the situation in detail, though some of the Republican presidential contenders have touched on the issue, deploring street violence and urging calm.
Clinton’s remarks came in a speech at Columbia University. “What we have seen in Baltimore should, indeed I think does, tear at our soul. My heart breaks for these young men and their families. We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America," she said.
Clinton said the U.S. needs to confront a number of issues in the wake of the unrest in Baltimore following the death of a young black man, Freddie Gray, in police custody. The Gray case is the latest in a series of deadly encounters between young black men and police around the country over the past several months.
Clinton said it was time to end what she called “the era of mass incarceration” of young, low-level criminal offenders, as well as the lack of funding for drug and mental health programs.
But Clinton also said those behind the recent violence in Baltimore should be held accountable. “So the violence has to stop," she said. "But more broadly let’s remember that everyone in every community benefits when there is respect for the law and when everyone in every community is respected by the law.”
Clinton is the only announced Democratic candidate for the November 2016 election, although that likely will change on Thursday, when Vermont's Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who usually votes with the chamber's minority Democrats, is scheduled to join the race.
To some extent, Clinton’s remarks echoed those of President Barack Obama, who spoke at length about the violence in Baltimore in a White House appearance on Tuesday. Obama sought to strike a balance between shining a spotlight on the some of the deep-seated problems behind the violence in Baltimore, and on those who were intent on taking advantage of the situation. “That is not a protest. That is not a statement. It is people - a handful of people - taking advantage of the situation for their own purposes. And they need to be treated as criminals," said President Obama.
The president noted a number of recent incidents involving young black men and police across the country that resulted in the use of deadly force, and said these raise troubling questions in many communities. “Moms and dads across the country might start saying this is a crisis," he told his audience at the White House, which included news media. "What I would say is, this has been a slow rolling crisis and this has been going on for a long time.”
Republican Contenders Speak Out
Republican presidential contenders have also weighed in. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush said the violence in Baltimore emphasized the need for a “commitment to the rule of law and law enforcement.”
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tweeted that he is praying “for the restoration of peace” in Baltimore.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz, one of three announced Republican candidates, said the Freddie Gray case should be “thoroughly and impartially investigated.” He condemned those behind the violence and looting in Baltimore.
One Republican who has become prominent in connection with the unrest is Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who is newly elected and is not running for president. Baltimore was reported calmer Tuesday night after police enforced a curfew. Hogan said: “Our primary mission again is to maintain order and to begin to repair the damage inflicted by the violence. Acts of violence and destruction of property cannot and will not be tolerated.”
Afghan leader Ashraf Ghani is on a trip to India in a bid to boost trade and reassure New Delhi of his country's commitment despite warming ties with Pakistan. But will it be enough? DW talks to analyst Smruti Pattanaik.
Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi (R), walks with the Afghan President, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani during their meeting in New Delhi, India, 28 April 2015
"India and Afghanistan have (a) million ties," Ghani told reporters at a joint media briefing in the Indian capital following talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 28. The Afghan president is on a three-day visit to India aimed at renewing New Delhi's commitment to Afghan development and the fight against the Taliban as well as at shoring up Indian investment in the conflict-ridden country.
New Delhi has had close ties to Kabul since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, especially during the term of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. India has granted Afghanistan $2.2 billion in aid over the past decade - the biggest it has ever given to any country. However, concerns were raised in New Delhi when, shortly after his election, President Ghani decided to reach out to India's rivals Pakistan and China before visiting India.
In a DW interview, Smruti Pattanaik, a research fellow at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, talks about India's view of Afghanistan's warming relations with Islamabad, and explains how India can contribute to Afghanistan's economic development.
Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani attends a business meeting in New Delhi, India, April 29, 2015
India's contribution to Afghanistan's economic growth is immense, says Pattanaik
DW: What are the key aims of Ghani's visit to India?
Smruti Pattanaik: Several elements of this visit are significant. First, Ghani wants to assure India that it remains an important strategic partner. Second, he wants to assure that its investment in Afghanistan is secured and would be protected from attacks by the insurgent groups. Third, Ghani is seeking more investment to accelerate the process of building the Chahbahar port in Iran.
Why has Ghani taken so long to visit India?
After the controversial electoral process that got Ghani elected as Afghan president, the main issues that have confronted his political leadership have been post-transition security challenges and talks with the Taliban aimed at concluding a negotiated political settlement that would bring lasting peace to the war torn country.
Keeping these two objectives in mind, President Ghani has sought the help of the US, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia. New Delhi cannot deliver on these immediate needs. However, India remains an important partner and a popular country to the people of Afghanistan. Ghani understands this and knows that India would remain a strategic challenge to Pakistan's intention to dominate Afghanistan through its proxies.
How important is Afghanistan to India?
Afghanistan forms the lynchpin of India's central Asia strategy, as it provides connectivity to these landlocked countries. Second, a peaceful Afghanistan would contribute significantly to regional peace. India does not want to see Afghanistan as a surrogate state of Pakistan. Therefore, it has laid emphasis on an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
Third, India doesn't want Afghanistan to emerge as a fertile ground from where Pakistan can sponsor terrorism against India, as has been the case in the past. Fourth, India would not like to see emergence of Taliban or radical Islamists as a major force in Afghanistan politics which is likely to patronize radical groups elsewhere. Fifth, India has mining interests in Hajigok, and without peace in Afghanistan it would be difficult to extract the minerals.
How does the Indian government view Ghani's warming relationship with Islamabad?
India is carefully watching the unfolding Afghan-Pakistani relations. Islamabad is important for the establishment of peace in Afghanistan as it continues to host the Taliban leadership. India does not have any objection, rather it would be happy, if Pakistan was able to bring the Taliban leadership to hold a dialogue with the Afghanistan government.
There are, however, a lot of doubts as to whether Pakistan is willing to give up its leverage without a price. So there is much concern in India about how the Pakistan-brokered talks will pan out. Nonetheless, India does not see Afghanistan's relations with Pakistan and its relations with Afghanistan as zero sum game.
How can India help develop Afghanistan economically?
In spite of geographical constraints, India's contribution to accelerate economic growth is immense. For economic development in any country to succeed it requires three things: first, it needs good roads and communication network; then it needs electricity and human resources. In this context, India is prioritizing the construction of Chahbahar port to provide Afghanistan access to sea which will provide Kabul with crucial access to port facility and reduce its complete dependence on Pakistan.
India has also built 220kV DC transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul. It is in the process of completing the Salma dam project, which - although delayed for security reasons – is set to change the irrigation map of Afghanistan, as it will increase cultivatable land from 35,000 hectares to 80,000 hectares and would produce 42MW of electricity once completed. Moreover, Afghan bureaucrats receive training in India and it also provides 1000 scholarships to Afghan students.
How do you see bilateral ties unfolding in the coming months?
India and Afghanistan have historically shared very good relations except the few years of Taliban rule. A significant landmark has been the construction of Parliament house which symbolizes Afghanistan's transformational politics – from Taliban to democracy - and reflects India's commitment to help in Afghanistan transition. In the coming months the priority will be to complete the Chahbahar port, expand the infrastructure network and concentrate on capacity building. All these would contribute to make Afghanistan a stable and viable state.
Major challenges to India's effort would be the ongoing security threat posed by the resurgent Taliban who continue to receive support and sustenance from Pakistan.
Wahhabi terrorists on Wednesday shot dead a Sunni-Barelvi teacher of University of Karachi (KU) in Federal B area.
Dr Syed Wahidur Rahman, alias Yasir Rizvi, was killed when four unidentified attackers riding two motorcycles opened fire on his car.
After the murder of Karachi University dean of Islamic Studies Prof Dr Shakeel Auj, this was the second murder of a Sunni-Barelvi teacher. The slain teachers was famous for denouncing the heinous crimes of Wahhabist Jihadists in his lectures. Some close associates of Dr Rahman told Shiite News that the slain teacher had mentioned many times that he could be murdered because of his name, Yasir Rizvi, which showed that he was Shia. It is learned that after the murder of Prof Dr Shakeel Auj, Dr Rahman was supporting the grieved family of the slain professor in term of seeking justice in the murder case.
Police surgeon Dr Jalil Qadir said Dr Rahman received five bullets wounds on his face, neck, chest, abdomen and arm while police reportedly recovered eight bullet cases from the site. The assailants managed to flee the scene soon after the attack.
Dr Rahman's body was taken to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital in Karachi. In the wake of Dr Rehman's death, university activities have been suspended for two days.
It is also worth mentioning that Police in Jan 2015 had claimed the arrest of a suspect who had allegedly confessed to his involvement in the murders of Karachi University dean of Islamic Studies Prof Dr Shakeel Auj and Prof Syed Sibte Jafar.
Earlier this month, the vice-principal of the Jinnah Medical and Dental College's student affairs wing Debra Lobo was shot and seriously injured on Shaheed-e-Millat Road in Karachi.