United States President Barack Obama on Tuesday said the country must “reject despair” and “find meaning amidst [their] sorrow” after the Dallas shootings, in which five police officers were killed during a race protest. Speaking at a memorial service for the officers, Obama maintained that racial discrimination was a reality in the US, but citizens must also recognise the dangers the police expose themselves to on the job.

The shootings took place amid a peaceful agitation held to condemn police officials killing two African American men – Philando Castile and Alton Sterling – incidents that sparked widespread anger across the country.

Obama said, “I’m not naive. I have spoken at too many memorials in the course of this presidency. I’ve seen how inadequate words can be at bringing about lasting change…But Dallas, I’m here to say we must reject such despair. I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem.”

Obama praised the officers for their courage, and said their actions prevented a greater tragedy. The event was also attended by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden.