President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush spoke to Dallas police officers and the families of the victims of the ambush that took place on July 7 at the Meyerson Symphony Center this afternoon (Tuesday, July 12).
The Arlington Police Department filled in for Dallas police to provide security around the Meyerson to allow DPD officers to attend.
The Dallas Police Choir was joined on stage by choirs from six church choirs from around the city. They began with a powerful rendition of “Love is Stronger than Hate.”
In addition to state and local officials, governors Jay Nixon of Missouri and Suzanna Martinez of New Mexico attended. Mayors from New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Lewisville and Columbia also flew in for the event.
Mayor Mike Rawlings welcomed the crowd and said they were there to comfort the families of the victims and “to honor those who were wounded, not only in body but soul,” acknowledging how hurt everyone on the police force is.
Police Chief David Brown said earlier today he may require his officers to go through counseling, so that they don’t have to request it.
The Rev. Sheron Patterson of the United Methodist Church of North Texas, Rabbi Andrew Paley of Temple Shalom and Imam Omar Suleiman on Valley Ranch Islamic Center offered a prayer for unity, healing and peace.
Sen. John Cornyn thanked Rawlings and Brown for the strength they’ve shown since the ambush, calling them men of uncommon courage.
He said Dallas police officers ran toward the bullets, shielded citizens and sacrificed their own lives.
“They put the people of Dallas before themselves,” Cornyn said.
After receiving a standing ovation, Bush said, “Today our nation grieves. Those of us who call Dallas home lost five members of our family.”
He said the Dallas Police Department has been an inspiration for the rest of the country.
“We are grief stricken, heartbroken and forever grateful,” Bush said.
Rawlings introduced DART police chief James Spiller saying, “Leadership is hard. Great leadership is unique. We experienced that leadership from James Spiller.”
As he introduced Brown, whom he called “a rock” and “my friend,” police gave an ovation with whistles and cheers.
When the president stood at the podium, he began with a tribute to each of the officers. Before the event, he met with the wounded and he talked about the son of Shetamia Taylor, who brought her children to the demonstration. Her 12-year-old son told the president he wants to become a Dallas police officer.
“Despite the fact police conduct was the subject of the protest, the men and women of the Dallas Police Department did their jobs,” Obama said.
They posted photos of themselves with demonstrators on social media, he said.
Throughout his speech, the president expressed frustration that he “hugged too many families.”
But he praised the Dallas police who “didn’t flinch and didn’t act recklessly,” and because of their actions, “saved more lives than we will ever know.”
He praised Brown for being at the forefront of improving relations between police and the city and called DPD a national model for the way a police department should be run. But he enumerated the shortcomings.
“We ask police to do too much and we ask too little of ourselves,” Obama said, echoing frustrations Brown expressed yesterday.
“We refuse to fund drug treatment,” he said. “We flood communities with guns.”
The event closed with the choirs singing “Glory Hallelujah.” When Michelle Obama took Bush’s hand and both began singing along with the choir, the others on stage held hands. That included Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, in whose district the shooting took place, who held hands with Sen. Ted Cruz. Then the entire audience stood, held hands and joined the singing.
Outside, we encountered one protester, a white woman, whose scribbled sign read, “Obama’s a racist.” We weren’t sure if she actually knows what the word means.
More details in Friday’s Dallas Voice.