OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty ImagesBy MOLLY NAGLE and JOHN VERHOVEK
(WASHINGTON) — Presumptive Democratic nominee and Former Vice President Joe Biden addressed the death of George Floyd, delivering brief remarks Friday afternoon following ‘incendiary tweets’ from President Trump that used racially charged language about protests in Minneapolis broke out Thursday night.
“This is no time for incendiary…tweets. It’s no time to encourage violence. This is a national crisis, and we need real leadership right now — leadership that will bring everyone to the table so we can take measures to root out systemic racism. It’s time for us to take a hard look at the uncomfortable truths. It’s time for us to face that deep, open wound we have in this nation. We need justice for George Floyd,” Biden said in remarks given via live-stream from his home in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden said Friday that he has spoken with members of Floyd’s family, and urged the nation to confront the “uncomfortable truths,” that his death earlier this week highlights.
“None of us can turn away. None of us can be silent. None of us any longer can hear the words ‘I can’t breathe’ and do nothing,” Biden said in his remarks.
His remarks coming after a night of heated protests in the city of Minneapolis that resulted in the precinct of the officers involved in Floyd’s death being burned to the ground, Biden made mention of other recent deaths of African-Americans that have drawn widespread outrage and sparked protests, including Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky.
“We’ve spoken their names aloud, we’ve cried them out in pain and horror,” Biden said Friday, harkening back to the nation’s “original sin” of slavery. “It’s a list that dates back more than 400 years. Black men, black women, black children. The original sin of this country still stains our nation today and sometimes we manage to overlook it. We just push forward with a thousand other tasks in our daily life. But it’s always there.”
Biden also spoke to the “constant anxiety” African-Americans face, invoking other recent incidents of black Americans having the cops incorrectly called on them for sitting in a Starbucks, as was the case in Philadelphia in 2018 or watching birds, as was the case this week in New York’s Central Park.
“Imagine having police called on you just for sitting in Starbucks or renting an Airbnb or watching birds. This is the norm black people in this country deal with. They don’t have to imagine it. The anger and frustration and the exhaustion is undeniable, but that’s not the promise of America,” Biden said.
The former vice president called for police reform during his remarks to “hold cops to a higher standard,’ that would ‘hold bad cops accountable,” along with repairing relationships between law enforcement and minority communities.
“It’s gonna require those of us who sit in some position of influence to finally deal with the abuse of power. The pain is too immense for one community to bear alone. I believe it’s the duty of every American to grapple with it, and to grapple with it now — with our complacency, our silence. We are complicit in perpetuating these cycles of violence. Nothing about this will be easy or comfortable,” Biden said.
The presumptive Democratic nominee has spoken about Floyd’s death throughout the week, addressing it at the top of an event focused on coronavirus, and during a fundraiser Thursday night.
“We can’t ignore that we are in a country with an open wound right now. A wound far older and deeper than George Floyd’s—George Floyd’s killing—and his brutal, brutal death captured on film. His final words, pleading for breath. ‘Let me breathe, I can’t breathe.’ It’s ripped open anew this—this ugly underbelly of our society,” Biden said at the fundraiser.
“You know, if we’re not committed as a nation, with every ounce of purpose in our beings–not just to binding up this wound in hope that somehow the scab once again will cover things over–but to treat the underlying injury, we’re never going to eventually heal. That’s the reason I’m running. This campaign is about healing this country,” Biden continued.
When launching his campaign in April of 2019, Biden placed a heavy focus on the events in Charlottesville, Va., and the president’s response that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the clash as a catalyst for his decision to run.
“With those words, the President of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate, and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had seen in my lifetime,” Biden said in the video announcing his candidacy.
Biden’s address also comes one week after he made headlines for comments he made during an interview with “The Breakfast Club” radio program, in which he quipped that if African American voters support President Trump over him in November, they aren’t “black.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black,” Biden told radio personality Charlamagne tha God, who hosts the program.
Biden expressed regret for those comments later that day, saying he shouldn’t have been so “cavalier with his remarks.”
“I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,” Biden added, “I don’t take [the black vote] for granted at all. And no one, no one should have to vote for any party, based on their race, their religion, their background.”
Biden has relied heavily on support from the African-American community throughout this year’s Democratic primary, especially among older black voters, who propelled him to a landslide victory in South Carolina that many credit with reviving his campaign.
In his remarks Friday, Biden pledged to Floyd’s family that he would see justice done in his case, and urged the country to “stand up” and spark change.
“I promise you, I promise you we’ll do everything in our power to see to it that justice is had in your brother, your cousin’s case…Folks, we got to stand up. We’ve gotta move. We’ve gotta change,” Biden said.
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