Roosevelt Room

1:39 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Folks, I want to start by recognizing the remarkable protests that are taking place in Cuba, with the Cuban people demanding their freedom from an authoritarian regime.  And I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this protest in a long, long time — if, quite frankly, ever.

The United States stands firmly with the people of Cuba as they assert their universal rights.  And we call on the government — the government of Cuba to refrain from violence or attempts to silence the voice of the people of Cuba. 

And we’re also closely following the developments in Haiti in the wake of the horrific assassination of the President that recently took place.  The people of Haiti deserve peace and security, and Haiti’s political leaders need to come together for the good of their country.

Over the weekend, I dispatched a high-level, expert delegation to assess the situation and to determine where the United States can offer our support.

And finally, as a close neighbor and friend of the people of both Cuba and Haiti, the United States stands ready to continue to provide assistance, and I’ll have more for you as we move on.

But the purpose of the meeting today is we’ve convened a group of law enforcement and other community leaders, including mayors of the — of our cities, one, to thank them for their service because we owe them big time; second, to hear directly from each of them about reducing violent crime and, particularly, gun violence in our communities.

Last month, I met with a similar group to unveil my comprehensive strategy to do just that.  And it’s been — it’s been an — you know, I guess — I look at the Attorney General — we’ve been this a lo- — at this a long time.  A long time.  It seems like most of my career I’ve been dealing with this issue.

While there’s no “one-size-fit-all” approach, we know there are some things that work, and the first of those that work is stemming the flow of firearms used to commit violent crimes.  And we’ve talked — you and I have talked about this, Mayor, before.

MAYOR BOWSER:  Mm-hmm.  Absolutely.

THE PRESIDENT:  And it includes cracking down on holding rogue gun dealers accountable for violating the federal law.  It includes the Justice Department creating five new strike forces to crack down on illegal gun trafficking (inaudible) supplying weapons to cities of New York — from New York to the Bay Area.

Secondly, it’s supporting local law enforcement with the federal support they need.  Our strategy provides including funding for law enforcement through the American Rescue Plan for states, cities, and to be able to hire police and pay them overtime in order to advance community policing.

Third, our plan invests in community violence and intervention.  We — what we want to do is when we — we know we utilize trusted community members and encourage more community policing, we can intervene before the violence erupts — at least that’s what, I think, consensus and our experience.  And community violence intervention programs have shown to reduce crime in some cities by up to 60 percent.

Fourthly, our strategy to fund the other vital services, like mental health and substance abuse disorder programs, job training, and summer job programs.  And this is going to help prevent crime and support young people to pick up a paycheck instead of a pistol.

And fifth, our strategy helps formerly incarcerated people successfully reenter society with housing, jobs, and training, and other support that, up to now, have been denied to them.  Somebody gets — gets out of jail right now, after serving their time, they get a bus ticket and 25 bucks, and they end up under the same bridge they left.  And we know this will help. 

This will make us all safer.  The American Rescue Plan funds programs to help get job training, apprenticeships, and work experience so they can gain stability and security and a chance for a better life.

There’s a lot more to my strategy, but at — that’s at the core.  It’s about coordinating at a federal, state, and local level.  That’s what, ultimately, we’re going to talk about today. 

We recognize that we have to come together to fulfill the first responsibility of a democracy and to keep each other safe.  And that’s what the American people are looking for when it comes to reducing violent crime and gun violence. 

And I think this group is illustrative of — of what we need to get put together, and I want to thank them for being here.  And I’m going to look forward to hearing from them because I’m going to be asking them what they think we should be doing on the federal level.

So, thank you very much.  And we’ll have more to say as we move on.  Thank you.

Q    Mr. President, would you consider changing the embargo on Cuba?  Would you consider making any changes to the embargo with Cuba?

Q    When you will be ready to change Trump’s reversal on Cuba, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  We are going to have more to say about Cuba and Haiti as the week goes on and — so stay tuned.  Thank you.

1:44 P.M. EDT

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