At a White House forum on criminal justice reform Thursday, President Obama offered an unsolicited defense of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Janell Ross of the Washington Post:

President Obama defended ‘Black Lives Matter.’ But why did he have to?

Obama chose to weigh in on the simmering controversy over the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” More specifically, he gave his take on the idea that the phrase is a threat, a verbal affront or some kind of intentional effort to devalue the lives of others. This idea seems to have started with a few not-exactly disinterested police union heads and law enforcement officials, boiled over on a number of conservative blogs and has reverberated with a certain share of the white American public…

Here’s what Obama said, from Wesley Lowery:

“Sometimes, like any of these loose organizations, some people pop off and say dumb things but … on the other hand though, it started being lifted up as ‘these folks are opposed to police, they’re opposed to cops and all lives matter,’ so the notion was that somehow saying black lives matter was reverse racism or suggesting that other people’s lives don’t matter or police officers lives don’t matter,” Obama said. “And whenever we get bogged down in that kind of discussion, we know where that goes, that’s just down the old trap.”

Obama went on to suggest that organizers of Black Lives Matter — which he declared a “social media movement” — do value all lives and do support good law enforcement. But he added, repeating a line he has used often when discussing issues of race and policing, that concerns about policing and profiling in minority communities are real and valid.

“I think that the reason that the organizers used the phrase Black Lives Matter was not because they were suggesting that no one else’s lives matter … rather what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that is happening in the African American community that’s not happening in other communities,” Obama said. “And that is a legitimate issue that we’ve got to address.”

Here’s a video of Obama’s remarks:

Of course, there are no coincidences in Obama’s world. His sudden outspokenness on this issue comes on the heels of a report that the Democratic Party, which has been criticized by its own candidates for having too few primary debates, will hold a special event devoted to the movement.

Amanda Sakuma of MSNBC reports:

Black Lives Matter to host Democratic presidential town hall

Major groups associated with the Black Lives Matter movement will host Democratic presidential candidates for a town hall focusing on social and racial justice.

The Democratic National Committee approved the extra forum for 2016 hopefuls on Wednesday, but remained steadfast against adding another candidate debate to the schedule, according to letters first obtained by the Washington Post.

The letters, sent from the DNC to prominent activist groups the #BlackLivesMatter network and Campaign Zero, affirm the party’s support of the growing social movement and heed their request to hold a forum that explicitly addresses issues of race and social justice.

“We believe that your organization would be an ideal host for a presidential candidate forum — where all of the Democratic candidates can showcase their ideas and policy positions that will expand opportunity for all, strengthen the middle class and address racism in America,” Amy K. Dacey, chief executive officer of the DNC, wrote in the letters obtained by the Post. “The DNC would be happy to help promote the event.”

It’ll be fun to see who gets to moderate that event.

Featured image via YouTube.