Barack Obama honours Tony McDade, the Black trans man killed by cops, while calling for an end to police brutality

Tony McDade and Barack Obama

Barack Obama paid tribute to the family of Tony McDade and other Black victims of police brutality in his first public speech since global protests against racism began.

America’s first Black president honoured McDade, was shot and killed by an unnamed white police officer in Tallahassee, north Florida, on May 27, during an online town hall event titled “Reimagining Policing in the Wake of Continued Police Violence”.

He began his remarks by acknowledging “that although all of us have been feeling pain, uncertainty and disruption, some folks have been feeling it more than others”.

Obama named the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmuad Arbery, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, and the other Black victims of police brutality, of which there are “too many others to mention”.

“To those families who’ve been directly affected by tragedy,” he continued, “please know that Michelle and I grieve with you and hold you in our prayers.”

“We’re committed to the fight of creating a more just nation in memory of your sons and daughters.”

Obama struck an optimistic tone as he discussed the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, which he described as “unlike anything I have seen in my lifetime”, and the urgent need for police reform.

“In a lot of ways, what has happened in the last several weeks is that challenges and structural problems here in the United States have been thrown into high relief,” he said.

“They are the outcome of not just an immediate moment in time, but as the result of a long host of things — slavery, Jim Crow, redlining and institutional racism.”

He called on every mayor in the US to review use of force policies.

“Chokeholds and strangleholds, that’s not what we do,” he said – though his call for a major review of use-of-force policies received a mixed reception online, where critics questioned why police brutality had not been ended under his presidency.

Barack Obama tells young Black Americans: ‘Your lives matter.’

In stark contrast to his successor, who he did not name directly, Obama thanked the “folks who are willing, in a peaceful, disciplined way, to be out there making a difference”.

“For those who have been talking about protest, just remember that this country was founded on protest — it is called the American Revolution,” he said.

Obama also acknowledged “the folks in law enforcement that share the goals of reimagining policing”.

Addressing young Black Americans directly, he added: “I want you to know that you matter, I want you to know that your lives matter, that your dreams matter, and when I go home and I look at the faces of my daughters, Sasha and Malia, and I look at my nephews and nieces, I see limitless potential that deserves to flourish and thrive.

“And you should be able to learn and make mistakes and live a life of joy without having to worry about what’s going to happen when you walk to the store, or go for a jog, or are driving down the street, or looking at some bird in a park.

“So I hope that you also feel hopeful even as you may feel angry because you have the potential to make things better and you have helped to make the entire country feel as if this is something that’s gotta change. You’ve communicated a sense of urgency that is as powerful and as transformative as anything that I’ve seen in recent years.”