WASHINGTON (AP) — With emotions running raw, President Barack Obama met privately Wednesday with elected officials, law enforcement leaders and members of the Black Lives Matter movement with the goal of getting them to work together to curb violence and build trust.
Obama has devoted much of the week to the issue of violence by police and against police officers, a few days after a black Army veteran killed five police officers in revenge for police shooting black men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the Minneapolis suburbs.
On Tuesday, Obama attended a memorial service for the five slain Dallas officers and called the families of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota to offer condolences.
On Monday, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with police officers at the White House. The session Wednesday, which lasted more than two hours, was expanded to include mayors, academics and civil rights activists, including some from the Black Lives Matter movement, which has focused on police shootings of African-Americans.
"We'll share solutions from communities that have already found ways to build trust and reduce disparities," Obama said on Facebook.
"Going forward, I want to hear ideas from even more Americans about how we can address these challenges together as one nation. That means you," Obama said.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said there would be law enforcement officers in the room who are deeply troubled by Black Lives Matter activists. But he reiterated that Obama has cautioned against judging any one group by the actions of some members.
"Resisting that impulse and keeping open our hearts will be necessary to make some progress on this challenge," Earnest told reporters Wednesday.
Those attending the meeting included Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana and Mayor Chris Coleman of St. Paul, Minnesota, the two locations where police shootings sparked protests around the country.
Also on the list were Mica Grimm, with Black Lives Matter Minnesota, and DeRay Mckesson, who was arrested Saturday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on a charge of obstructing a highway. Police said Mckesson "intentionally" placed himself in the road after protesters were repeatedly warned to remain on private property or the curb. Mckesson was released from jail Sunday. The Rev. Al Sharpton also attended.
Biden told CNN after Monday's meeting that a couple of the police groups criticized the president while others told him he was "doing it just right" with his comments. Biden did not offer detail about the complaints, but said Obama stressed how he has repeatedly voiced support for law enforcement and offered to send critics a list of when he has done so.
Biden said Obama asked the police officials at the meeting: "Fellas, what do you think I'm not doing? What have you not heard me say?"
Biden also said some of the police organizations voiced concerns for the safety of their members. "It's the first time I've ever heard police organizations say, 'My guys are frightened,'" Biden said.