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George Floyd death: Obama calls protests against racial injustice 'powerful' and 'transformative'

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Former US President Barack Obama speaks on June 3, 2020, during virtual town hall event to discuss policing after following the death of George Floyd.
Former US President Barack Obama speaks on June 3, 2020, during virtual town hall event to discuss policing after following the death of George Floyd.   -   Copyright  My Brother's Keeper Alliance and The Obama Foundation via AP
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Former US President Barack Obama commended young people for "communicating a sense of urgency" in protests across the nation over the death of George Floyd.

Floyd died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes while the 46-year-old black American cried out in distress. The police officer, Derek Chauvin, has since been charged with second-degree murder after a second autopsy showed Floyd died of asphyxia.

The incident sparked protests in many major US cities that have at times turned violent due in part to a heavy-handed police response.

"You've communicated a sense of urgency that is as powerful and transformative as anything that I've seen," Obama told young people at a virtual town hall event organised by his foundation.

Obama also commended the diversity of the protesters in multiple US cities stating that the coalition was "different" from civil rights protests in the 1960s.

Throughout the 1960s there were riots against racial injustice, including protests throughout the country after the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. This led to the signing of a civil rights act prohibiting discrimination in housing.

"There is something different here," said Obama, as protesters are from a "far more representative cross-section of America," moved to do something because of racial injustice.

We have seen in the last few weeks and months "epic changes and events in our country that are as profound as anything that I've seen in my lifetime," said Obama, noting the coronavirus pandemic.

The United States currently has the largest number of cases of coronavirus and the highest death toll due to the pandemic with more than 1.9 million cases and over 109,000 deaths.

The coronavirus has exposed the "vulnerabilities of our healthcare system" as well as the "biases" that lead to minorities being disproportionately affected by the pandemic, the former US president said.

Obama has been more vocal recently, openly criticising the current administration, as his former Vice President Joe Biden prepares his presidential bid in November's election.

Speaking at a virtual graduation ceremony for students of historically black colleges and universities, Obama said last month that the pandemic had "finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing."