The White House on Wednesday responded to questions related to the police shooting deaths of African-American men by saying the incidents should be handled locally and avoiding offering any specific comment from the President.
During the press briefing Wednesday, American Urban Radio Networks’ April Ryan asked about President Donald Trump’s response to two such incidents recently: the Louisiana attorney general’s announcement Tuesday that no charges would be filed against the two police officers who wrestled Alton Sterling to the ground outside a Baton Rouge convenience store in July 2016, one of whom shot and killed Sterling; and the recent police killing of Stephon Clark in his grandmother’s backyard in Sacramento, California, despite Clark being armed with only a cell phone.
“Certainly a terrible incident,” Sanders said, referring to Clark. “This is something that is a local matter, and it’s something that we feel should be left up to the local authorities at this point in time.”
Ryan pressed, seemingly determined to get the White House on record against unjustified police violence.
“But what does he feel about that?” she asked. “He was strongly behind police, he supports police, as much of America does, but wants to weed out bad policing. What does he say about weeding out bad policing when you continue to see these kinds of situations over and over again?”
“Certainly we want to make sure that all law enforcement is carrying out the letter of the law,” Sanders replied. “The President is very supportive of law enforcement, but, at the same time, in these specific cases, in these specific instances, those would be left up to local authorities to make that determination, and not something for the federal government to weigh into.”
“There’s one more large case that’s still lingering,” Ryan added. “Eric Garner, that cried out 11 times, ‘I can’t breathe.’” What of the family’s continued demands for justice?
“I’m not aware of any specific action,” Sanders said. “Once again, these would be local matters that should be left up to the local authorities.”
Press Sec. Sanders calls fatal police shootings of Stephon Clark and Alton Sterling “a local matter”:
“In these specific cases and in these specific incidences, those would be left up to local authorities … and not something for the federal government to weigh into.” pic.twitter.com/5CHM2TTak8
— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 28, 2018
NBC News’ Kristen Welker tried again later: “With respect, this seems to be an entire issue that the country is grappling with, these tensions between communities of color and police departments. Does the President not need to show leadership on this issue?”
“When the President has talked about a number of issues, we want to find ways to bring the country together,” Sanders said, veering off into unrelated issues before returning to her previous point: “When it comes to the authority to— On the rulings that have taken place in the last few days, those are things that have to be done at a local level and they’re not federal decisions at this point in time.”
Welker said many African-American mothers felt as if “their sons are dying.”
“Doesn’t the President feel like he needs to do something about that?” she asked.
Sanders avoided the issue entirely, speaking in terms of general public safety, school shootings and illegal immigration.
“I think we should do every single thing we can, every single day, to protect the people of this country,” she said. “I think the President — whether they’re black, white, hispanic, male or female, rich or poor, we look for ways to protect the individuals in this country, particularly children.”
Among the reporters shouting their next questions, April Ryan tried again: “This has been happening for hundreds of years, though! This is a national issue!”