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Obama: Groups Like Black Lives Matter "Can't Just Keep On Yelling"

The president said activists must be willing to "engage the other side" and not "refuse to meet because that might compromise the purity of your position."

Posted on April 23, 2016, at 5:19 p.m. ET

Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

President Obama offered some unsolicited advice to leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement while talking to young people in London Saturday: "You just can't keep on yelling."

Speaking at a town hall event with young UK leaders, Obama highlighted the work of the Black Lives Matter movement to bring attention to issues surrounding race and the criminal justice. However, he then said that activist leaders must move on to "sit down and try to actually get something done."

"[Black Lives Matter] has been really effective in bringing attention to problems," Obama said. "Once you've highlighted an issue and brought it to people's attention and shined a spotlight, and elected officials or people who are in a position to start bringing about change are ready to sit down with you, then you can't just keep on yelling at them."

"You can't refuse to meet because that might compromise the purity of your position," he said.

"Too often what I see is wonderful activism that highlights a problem, but then people feel so passionately and are so invested in the purity of their position that they never take that next step and say, 'Okay, well, now I got to sit down and try to actually get something done.'"

Justin Tallis / AFP / Getty Images

During the event at London's Royal Horticulture Halls, Obama, who began his political career as a community organizer, was asked what social movements in the U.S. he saw as most effective in bringing about change.

He highlighted the same-sex marriage movements, climate change, and Black Lives Matter.

Despite the dig against the Black Lives Matter activists, Obama has spoken out in support of the movement in the past and defended it against critics.

At a White House forum on criminal justice last year, Obama defended the group's singling out of "black lives" in their name, stating it wasn't suggestive that other lives didn't have worth, but rather highlighted "a specific problem that's happening in the African American community."

He's also met with leaders of the group, calling their progress "outstanding work."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.