Barack Obama to visit Dallas in wake of shootings

US president to cut short European visit after racially motivated attack kills five policemen

Washington Correspondent Simon Carswell reports on events in Dallas, where five police officers have been killed and seven more wounded. Video: Reuters/Ismael Dejesus

 

US president Barack Obama will cut short his visit to Europe for talks with Nato and EU leaders to visit Dallas where five policemen were shot dead and seven other officers wounded in what appears to be a racially motivated sniper attack.

It was the deadliest attack on American law enforcement since 9/11.

He will attend meetings in Warsaw on Saturday, as scheduled, before heading on to Spain, where his itinerary includes meetings with Spanish leaders and a visit to US troops.

He will now return to Washington on Sunday, and will visit Dallas at the request of Mayor Mike Rawlings early next week.

He described Thursday’s fatal attack in the Texan city as “despicable” and said there was no justification for the violence.

“I believe that I speak for every single American when I say that we are horrified over these events, and that we stand united with the people and the police department in Dallas,” Mr Obama said.

Combined with the recent massacre in Orlando, Florida, and the rise in so-called lone wolf terrorism, rising anxiety about public safety could mean the Dallas shooting has an enduring impact.

Racial disparities

Mr Obama has aligned himself with civil rights protesters and others calling attention to racial disparities in the justice system, and he has been criticised from those who cast the movement as anti-law enforcement.

The debate has largely split along party lines and stands as a potentially potent issue in the presidential election.

Mr Obama tried to walk a delicate balance in his remarks.

Just hours before the gunfire erupted in Dallas on Thursday, the president expressed solidarity with those outraged over police shootings in Baton Rouge and St Paul.

A visibly frustrated Mr Obama urged Americans to push for local law enforcement reforms and said all Americans, regardless of race, should care about the treatment of blacks and Hispanics by police.

Mr Obama argued there is no contradiction between supporting law enforcement and working to see that biases in the justice system are rooted out.

“So when people say ‘Black Lives Matter,‘ that doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter,” he said, referring to police.

“It just means all lives matter - but right now, the big concern is the fact that the data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents.”

But the president also expressed his gratitude to police officers.

He returned to that theme after the Dallas shootings.

“Today is a wrenching reminder of the sacrifices that they make for us,” he said.

“Today our focus is on the victims and their families. They are heartbroken. The entire city of Dallas is grieving. Police across America, which is a tight-knit family, feels this loss to their core.”

Mr Obama ordered flags to be flown at half-mast in honour of the victims and he spoke by phone to Mr Rawlings, Dallas Police Chief David Brown and Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

AP