Former US President George W. Bush spoke out Tuesday following mass unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd, stressing now is the “time for us to listen.”
Floyd died on May 25 in police custody after a white police officer pinned the handcuffed black man’s neck to the ground with his knee for nearly nine minutes.
Bush said he and his wife Laura had not yet spoken out because “this is not the time for us to lecture” but said the former first couple “are anguished by the brutal suffocation of George Floyd and disturbed by the injustice and fear that suffocate our country.”
“The only way to see ourselves in a true light is to listen to the voices of so many who are hurting and grieving,” Bush said in a statement. “Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America — or how it becomes a better place.”
The former president’s statement follows nearly a week of nationwide demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality that have attracted thousands of demonstrators in major metropolises. Some protests have turned violent, with looting and vandalism overshadowing scenes of largely peaceful demonstrations.
On Monday, federal officers forcefully dispersed overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrators near the White House roughly 25 minutes before a city-wide curfew was set to take effect.
Minutes later, President Donald Trump casually walked through the former protest area for a photo opportunity in front of an historic church that was burned by looters the previous night. Prior to his appearance in front of the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church, Trump delivered fiery remarks vowing to establish law and order at all costs, echoing rhetoric he had been using on Twitter.
While noting that “looting is not liberation, and destruction is not progress,” Bush said the “tragedy” of Floyd’s death “raises a long overdue question: How do we end systemic racism in our society?”
“The doctrine and habits of racial superiority, which once nearly split our country, still threaten our Union,” he said. “The answers to American problems are found by living up to American ideals — to the fundamental truth that all human beings are created equal and endowed by God with certain rights. We have often underestimated how radical that quest really is.”
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