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Mayor Pete responds to ‘all lives matter’ controversy saying ‘I have stopped using it’

In this Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017 photo, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg talks to a South Bend Tribune reporter regarding interest in the Democratic National Committee chairman position, inside the St. Joseph County Democratic Party headquarters in South Bend, Ind. Buttigieg announced his chairman candidacy Thursday, Jan. 5. Photo: (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP)

Out presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg told reporters today that he regrets using the phrase “all lives matter” during a 2015 speech State of the City speech as mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

“What I did not understand at that time was that phrase was coming to be used as a sort of counter-slogan to Black Lives Matter,” Buttigieg said.

“And so, that statement, which seems very anodyne and something that nobody could be against, actually wound up being used to devalue what the Black Lives Matter movement was telling us. Since learning about how that phrase was being used to push back on that activism, I have stopped using it in that context.”

Buttigieg used the phrase “all lives matter” during State of the City address as a way of addressing race relations during a time of conflict. The speech was given after the Black Lives Matter movement rose to national prominence and conservatives and white supremacists started to use the “all lives matter” phrase as a way of downplaying the social injustice perpetrated against black Americans by police.

Related: Pete Buttigieg says that Mike Pence is ‘complicit’ in the rise of white nationalism

“The Mayor’s comment was in the context of discussing racial reconciliation in his 2015 State of the City speech,” said Lis Smith, a spokesperson for Buttigieg, in a statement. “He believes black lives matter and that has been reflected in his actions as mayor of South Bend.”

“It’s time for South Bend to begin talking about racial reconciliation,” he said during the speech according to transcripts published by the South Bend Voice. “That means honest, frank discussions that allow city leaders, law enforcement, and community members to face the mistakes of the past and establish shared ground for the future.”

“There is no contradiction between respecting the risks that police officers take every day in order to protect this community, and recognizing the need to overcome the biases implicit in a justice system that treats people from different backgrounds differently, even when they are accused of the same offenses,” Buttigieg continued.

“We need to take both those things seriously, for the simple and profound reason that all lives matter.”

Buttigieg made the comments to reporters shortly after addressing the Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network conference. He spoke about how he would handle racial justice issues as president

“It should enhance, not diminish, the value of a good police department when we assert what should go without saying, but in these times must be said clearly and again and again. That black lives matter,” Buttigieg said during the speech before laying out multiple ways to address racial disparities.

Sharpton praised Buttigieg for providing “substance, not soundbites.”

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