Obama town hall guests were a cross section of people touched by recent violence
Several got to ask the president questions
On Thursday evening, President Barack Obama sat down for a town hall discussion hosted by ABC News. The president touched on the current state of gun violence and police tactics in the country, acknowledged the Black Lives Matter movement and aimed to help heal a country that has seemingly been divided by race among so many other things.
Below is a list of the special guests who attended The President and the People: A National Conversation town hall meeting:
Teri George: A mother whose 25-year-old son is a Baltimore police officer. The northeast Baltimore woman was with a group of 50 people who hosted a candlelight vigil in Federal Park. “My son had a brick thrown through his car window,” George told The Baltimore Sun. ” He actually had some glass go in his eye. It’s not right. You don’t hear about all the officers who get hurt. Nobody sticks up for them.”
Maritza Ramos: The widow of Rafael Ramos, who was murdered with his partner, Wenjian Liu, while sitting in their police car on Dec. 20, 2015. The killer drove from Baltimore to New York City seeking to avenge the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Ramos honors her husband’s memory with the Detective Rafael Ramos Foundation.
Toya Graham and son: During the Baltimore riots, Graham was captured on video pulling her son back from the crowd and demanding that he put down the brick in his hand. She was forced to smack him to get his attention, and later said in an interview that she “didn’t want him to be a Freddie Gray.”
Clifton Kinnie: Black Lives Matter activist, student at Howard University and founder of student-activist collective Our Founder Destiny. He showed British radio and TV personality Reggie Yates “Ground Zero,” and through Ferguson, Missouri. He’s a well-known local social activist, and at 17, helped young people in the St. Louis community mobilize during the protests and riots. He has launched student organizations that focus on community outreach, leadership, demonstrations and protests, youth voter registration and mentorship.
Lezley McSpadden: The mother of Michael Brown, who was shot in killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson. She just released an autobiography called, Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil, as she recounts what happened the day she lost her son.
Gwen Carr: The mother of Eric Garner, who was killed by a police officer in 2014 after a dispute about him selling loose cigarettes. The officer walked behind Garner and proceeded to put him in a chokehold, all of which was caught on camera, as he said he couldn’t breathe.
Michelle Carlino: The wife of Albuquerque police officer Daniel Webster, who was shot during a traffic stop on Oct. 21, 2015. She is a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office deputy. The couple had three daughters and seven grandchildren.
Officer Andy Dwyer: A member of Blue Lives Matter New York. His brother, also a cop, was 23 years old when he was killed in the line of duty while chasing a robbery suspect. “The guy was Spanish,” Dwyer said. “Did that change my opinion about Spanish people? Absolutely not. It’s ignorant to think like that. But it did make me aware of several things: how precious life is. As a cop, any day you might think you’re going home that night, and you’re not.”
Rasheed Aldridge Jr.: A member of the Ferguson Commission, a group appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to help address concerns raised from the Ferguson unrest. He serves as director of an organization called Young Activist United St. Louis and sits as student co-chair on the Missouri Jobs with Justice.
Milwaukee Chief of Police Edward Flynn: A video he posted went viral, in which he explained that violence against black people needs to stop, and that black people should also look at crime statistics about black-on-black crime. “We’re responsible for the things we get wrong and we take action, we’ve arrested cops, we’ve fired cops and so on, but the fact is that the people out here — some of them — who have the most to say, are absolutely M.I.A. when it comes to facing the true threats facing this community and it gets a little tiresome, and when you start getting yelled at for reading updates on the kid that got shot, yeah, you take it personal.”
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick: The lieutenant governor of Texas. He set up fundraiser for five officers killed in Dallas. He drew national ire for calling Dallas demonstrators “hypocrites” for seeking protection from the same police they were protesting. He has apologized for poor choice of words.
Diallo Shabazz: Per his LinkedIn profile, Shabazz is a global education adviser and sustainability expert who has worked with government agencies and national governing organizations in North America, Asia and Africa. He is currently the executive director of One Hundred Black Men, an organization in New York that works with governments and corporations to transform economic and social policy, as well as launches independent programs and organizations that serve low-income communities.
Aislinn Pulley: The co-founder of Black Lives Matter Chicago. Per an op-ed she wrote on why she declined to meet with Obama, she describes herself as “a radical, Black organizer, living and working in a city that is now widely recognized as a symbol of corruption and police violence.”
Jennifer Pinckney: Widow of the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, who was one of nine black people shot and killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. She continues a foundation in her husband’s honor for his initiatives supporting public education and health care access. She is part of a gun control reform group called the Women’s Coalition for Common Sense, which former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who is also a survivor of a mass shooting, launched.
Dr. Brian Williams: The Dallas trauma surgeon who helped save the seven Dallas police officers wounded during an attack by a sniper at a Black Lives Matter protest. In a news conference following his heroics, he poignantly discussed the fine line he walks as a black man fearing a stop by the cops and having reverence for what the majority of them do.
Diamond Reynolds: Girlfriend of Philando Castile, who was pulled over for a bad taillight and shot four times after he told the officer about his concealed weapon. She was taken into custody with her 4-year-old daughter, after the pair watched Castile get shot in the stomach and die. (Reynolds spoke from Minnesota via a video message.)
Rev. Traci Blackmon: The first female pastor in the 156-year history of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Ferguson, Missouri. She was among those who demanded social change when Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, just miles from her church, and immediately got involved in organizing the Black Lives Matter movement.
Nakia Jones: A police officer since 1996 and a member of the Warrensville Heights, Ohio, police department. She said in a viral Facebook video, “If you’re afraid to talk to an African-American female or a Mexican male or female because they’re not white like you, take the uniform off. You have no business being a police officer.”
Coffey Anderson: The black country singer who posted a viral video on how to react after being pulled over by police; he re-enacts a traffic stop, and then provided recommendations for drivers on how to interact.
Cameron Sterling: The 15-year-old son of Alton Sterling, who was killed by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Cameron gained attention for breaking down on national TV and openly crying for his father as his mother spoke at a news conference the day after Sterling died. Cameron leaned his arm on her shoulder and was eventually led to the back of the group on the stage while crying.
Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly said that Andrew Taylor, a participant in the Dallas protest, was among the guests at the town hall.