Former Vice President Joe Biden Tuesday said that the killing of George Floyd in police custody, and the subsequent national outrage, has inspired a national reckoning.
“They speak to a nation where every day millions of people — not at the moment of losing their life but in the course of living their life — are saying to themselves, ‘I can’t breathe,’” said Biden of Floyd’s last words. “It’s a wake-up call for our nation, in my view. For all of us.”
Biden addressed the nation from the Mayor’s Reception Room in Philadelphia City Hall, marking the first time Biden has traveled outside Wilmington, Del., since the coronavirus pandemic prompted stay-at-home orders across the country. Previously, Biden had remarked on the killing of George Floyd and nationwide unrest both virtually from his home and during a trip to a black church in Wilmington in the past several days.
The presumptive Democratic nominee lambasted President Trump for allowing law enforcement in Washington to tear-gas peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park, in front of the White House. The protesters were cleared so Trump could have his photo taken in front of nearby St. John’s Church with a Bible in hand.
“When peaceful protesters are dispersed by the order of the president from the doorstep of the people’s house, the White House — using tear gas and flash grenades — in order to stage a photo op at a noble church, we can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle,” Biden said.
“The president held up the Bible,” Biden continued. “I just wish he’d open it once in a while, instead of brandishing it. If he opened it, he could’ve learned something.”
Biden called for the country to acknowledge and take action to eradicate systemic racism. Just last week, national security adviser Robert O’Brien told CNN that he doesn’t believe such racism exists within policing, instead offering that “some bad cops are racist.”
“We can’t leave this moment thinking that we can once again turn away and do nothing,” added Biden.
Biden called for Congress to quickly pass police reform legislation, including banning chokeholds, ending the transfer of military gear to departments and the creation of a standard model use of force. He believed quick action could be taken to push ideas through both chambers, given the apparent speed by which Majority Leader Mitch McConnell convened the Senate to confirm conservative judges.
“I wish I could say that hate began with Donald Trump and will end with him. It didn’t, and it won’t,” Biden said. “American history isn’t a fairy tale, with a guaranteed happy ending.”
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