• Obama is to participate in a My Brothers Keeper Alliance town hall at 5 p.m. EDT
  • He has been urging calm all week and asking people to direct their energy into political action, not violence
  • His tone is in sharp contrast to President Trump, who has taken a hardline against protesters

Former President Barack Obama was to address the country Wednesday in what will likely be a plea for peace and unity after the death of George Floyd and subsequent, sometimes violent, protests during a My Brother's Keeper Alliance town hall.

Obama's remarks were expected to take a more conciliatory tone than the White House, as President Trump has taken a hard line against demonstrators, threatening to invoke the Insurrection Act and to send regular military troops into the streets to prevent looting and vandalism.

Obama's was set to address to the nation virtually, beginning at 5 p.m. EDT. It will be his first live comments about the George Floyd protests.

In Twitter posts ahead of his address, Obama stressed peace.

He pointed out three articles: one on de-escalating encounters between protesters and police; one on the election of Ella Jones as the first black mayor of Ferguson, Missouri, which became a flashpoint in 2014 after Michael Brown was shot to death by a white police officer, and the third on the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff saying the military should not be used against U.S. citizens.

During the Ferguson riots, Obama condemned the violence, at the same time recognizing the pent-up frustration was about more than Brown’s death.

"They have deep roots in many communities of color who have a sense that our laws are not always being enforced uniformly or fairly. That may not be true everywhere and it's certainly not true for the vast majority of law enforcement officials, but that's an impression that folks have and it's not just made up -- it's rooted in realities that have existed in this country for a long time," Obama said, urging demonstrators to take a more “productive” approach than “burning buildings, torching cars, destroying property [and] putting people at risk.”

In a statement earlier this week, Obama said though it’s natural to wish for life to get back to normal amid the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic crisis, “we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully and maddeningly ‘normal’ – whether it’s while dealing with the healthcare system, interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street or just watching birds in a park” – the last to allusions to recent incidents: the shooting death of black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, and an incident in New York’s Central Park where a white woman called 911 after black birdwatcher Christian Cooper asked her to leash her dog.

“This shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America. It can’t be ‘normal.’ If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better,” he said.

The tone was in sharp contrast to Trump, who called that approach “weak” and demanded governors and mayors “dominate” demonstrators, urging the use of the military to quell the sometimes violent protests that have seen arson, looting, injuries and deaths.

In a Medium post, Obama urged demonstrators not to reject participation in politics as a means of addressing racism and effecting change. He said this could be a real turning point for the nation.

“So, the bottom line is this: If we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both,” Obama wrote.