Holder to thousands at NAACP dinner: Violence in Detroit 'unacceptable'

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told thousands of people gathered at an NAACP fundraising dinner Sunday that violence in Detroit is “unacceptable” and that his administration is directing “unprecedented” resources to reducing young people’s exposure to such crime nationally.

He said homicide is the leading cause of death for black men between the ages of 15 and 24 nationwide, and more than 60 percent of all young are exposed to violence “at some point in their lives, either as victims or as witnesses.”

In Detroit, Holder said, an average of two young black men gets killed each week, a statistic he called “shocking.”

The violence “is unacceptable,” he told the more than 6,000 people gathered at the 57th Annual Fight for Freedom Fund dinner of the Detroit chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

He said the fight against violence continues nationally along with the struggle to overcome justice and eliminate disparities.

“This work remains as important — and as urgent — as ever before,” Holder said.

Earlier Sunday, the attorney general spoke to University of Michigan law graduates in Ann Arbor. He told them America is in the middle of a period of “unprecedented challenge, new threats and an ongoing terrorist war.”

He urged the graduates at the law school’s Senior Day to remember their responsibility to the community and not just the quest for employment.

Holder told the newly minted lawyers that they should keep in mind the call to service that John F. Kennedy made on their campus in 1960, when the then-U.S. senator and Democratic presidential candidate announced plans for what would become the Peace Corps.

“Standing on the famous Michigan (Union) steps, he noted that ‘This university is not maintained by its alumni, or by the state, merely to help its graduates have an economic advantage in the life struggle. There is certainly a greater purpose,’” Holder’s prepared remarks were released by the Department of Justice.

Holder said Kennedy reminded students “of their readiness, and responsibility, to serve. And he enlisted their partnership in the pursuit of peace, progress, and — above all — justice.”

“Today, graduates, I ask the same of you,” Holder said. “And I also ask that, for a few minutes, you set aside your concerns about job prospects, though I know they are many; that you set aside the fresh memories of final exams, though I hope they are already fading; and that you instead consider why, of all things in this world, you chose to become lawyers.”
Holder then outlined the environment into which the graduates have emerged.

“Yes, you are entering an uncertain world — one burdened by economic difficulty but showing signs of recovery,” he said. “And you are taking leave of this campus in an age, not only of change, but also of unprecedented challenge, new threats, and an ongoing terrorist war. A time when — despite the incredible healing, and the once-unimaginable progress, that we’ve seen in recent decades — longstanding divisions and disparities remain.”

Challenges include economic conditions under which “the poorest among us continue to suffer most,” he said.