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Obama To Meet With Black Lives Matter Leaders

Civil rights activists, including Black Lives Matter leaders, will meet with President Barack Obama at the White House on Feb. 18 in honor of Black History Month.

Guests include Attorney General Loretta Lynch, National Action Network founder and president Al Sharpton, NAACP president Cornell Brooks and National Urban League president Marc Morial, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Aislinn Pulley, lead organizer of Black Lives Matter Chicago, and Deshaunya Ware, a student leader of the protest group Concerned Student 1950 at the University of Missouri, were also invited.

A White House official told CNN that the “first-of-its-kind” meeting will be attended by activists “who represent different generations of civil rights leaders.” Guests will “discuss a range of issues, including the administration’s efforts on criminal justice reform, building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, and the president’s priorities during his final year in office.”

The Black Lives Matter movement was started in response to unarmed black men in Florida, Missouri and elsewhere being killed by non-black individuals, CBS News reports. The activist network has called for widespread criminal justice and policing reform.

Critics have accused the group of inciting hatred toward police officers.

Obama defended the group in October 2015, clarifying that its members are not calling for violence but reform.

“I think everybody understands all lives matter,” he said at the time. “I think the reason the organizers used the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ was not because they were suggesting nobody else’s lives matter. Rather, what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that’s happening in the Africa-American community that’s not happening in other communities.”

Obama added that Americans should “understand the overwhelming majority of law enforcement’s doing the right thing and wants to do the right thing.” He encouraged people to “recognize that police officers have a really tough job, and we’re sending them into really tough neighborhoods that sometimes are really dangerous, and they’ve got to make split-second decisions.”

“But having said all that,” the president concluded, “we as a society, particularly given our history, have to take this seriously. … the African-American community is not just making this up.”

Sources: CBS, CNN, Chicago Sun-Times / Photo Credit: The White House/Flickr

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