Biden, in speech to the nation, denounces President Trump’s actions against protesters and vows to heal racial wounds

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JUNE 2, 2020

Seeking to console a nation riven by nights of violence with a promise to heal its racial wounds, former vice president Joe Biden on Tuesday bluntly criticized the White House’s decision a night earlier toforcibly clear protesters from a Washington street so President Trump could pose with a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

“When peaceful protestors dispersed in order for a president – a 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 — a photo op — at one of the most historic churches in the country, or at least Washington, D.C., we can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said.

Biden added that Trump appears “more interested in serving the passions of his base than the needs of the people in his care.”

“For that’s what the presidency is: a duty of care — to all of us, not just those who vote for us, but all of us. Not just our donors, but all of us.”

Biden’s criticisms of the president used his harshest words to date, as he layed into him for both rhetoric and actions that have deepened divisions in the nation, in Biden’s view intentionally.

“Look, I look at the presidency as a very big job. And nobody will get it right every time. And I won’t either,” he said. “But I promise you this. I won’t traffic in fear and division. I won’t fan the flames of hate. I’ll seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued this country – not use them for political gain.”

Biden’s remarks, which also touched on police behavior and historical inequities against minority communities, came after days of peaceful protests, marked with violence, which have scarred Philadelphia, where he delivered the speech, as well as cities across the nation.

During the roughly twenty minute address, Biden quoted or echoed civil rights leaders from earlier generations, including Rosa Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

But he also named some of today’s leaders, including Rev. William Barber, and called on Congress to act now to reform policing laws — including a bill introduced by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) to outlaw choke holds.

President Trump’s campaign responded swiftly to the speech, suggesting without any evidence that Biden is supportive of the destruction of property that has accompanied protests. “He has obviously made the crass political calculation that unrest in America is a benefit to his candidacy,” said Katrina Pierson, a Trump campaign senior advisor.

Biden launched his speech by speaking to the nation’s concerns over police brutality, paying homage to George Floyd and repeating his final utterances — “I can’t breathe.” Floyd, an unarmed black man, died after a police officer knelt on his neck in Minneapolis.

“George Floyd’s last words. But they didn’t die with him. They’re still being heard. Echoing across this nation,” Biden said. “They speak to a nation where too often just the color of your skin puts your life at risk. They speak to a nation where more than 100,000 people have lost their lives to a virus and 40 million have filed for unemployment — but the disproportionate number of those deaths and job losses is concentrated in the black and brown communities.”

“It’s a wake-up call for our nation in my view,” he added. “For all of us. And I mean all of us.”

He noted that Eric Garner, who died six years ago in police custody in New York under similar circumstances, had uttered the same words.

“It’s time to listen to those words,” Biden said. “To try to understand them to respond — to respond with action. Our country is crying out for leadership. Leadership that can unite us leadership that brings us together.”

He also criticized the president’s repeated use recently of racial references that augered to the civil rights era. The president tweeted in recent days that looting would be followed by shooting, playing on a saying uttered by a police chief in the 1960s against civil rights protesters. And Trump threatened the use of dogs and force against protesters, as was commonplace during the civil rights movement.

“I truly believe in my heart of hearts, we can overcome,” Biden, in one of several phrases of his that harkened to the 1960s.

Up until Tuesday, Biden had largely avoided calling for specific new reforms to deal with the repetitive use of force by police departments, most notably against non-white communities. His criminal justice reform plan, released last summer, lacks many of the proposals that were part of the 2016 Democratic Party platform, including training officers to avoid the use of force, required use of body cameras and federal investigations of all police-involved shootings.

Apart from his call for a ban on choke holds, Biden largely posited that the solution to continuing abuses was not to create new proposals but to enact measures that have long been debated and not pushed into being.

“It’s going to take more than talk. We’ve had talk before,” Biden said, adding that changing American responses would be “the work of a generation.”

Biden’s Tuesday speech repeated promises he had previously made, including establishing a police oversight commission and encouraging departments to embrace community policing programs. He said that every police department needs to undergo a comprehensive review of its hiring practices, training programs and de-escalation tactics — and that the federal government should give cities and states “the tools and the resources they need to implement reforms.”

“Bad cops should be dealt with severely and swiftly,” he said. “We all need to take a hard look at the culture that allows for the senseless tragedies to keep happening. And we need to learn from the cities and the precincts that are getting it right.”


Courtesy/Source: Washington Post

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