Former Vice President Joe Biden delivered an impassioned speech slamming President Donald Trump on June 2, calling him out for “fanning the flames of hate” amid nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd. Trump tweeted days earlier that protesters were “thugs,” and threatened on June 1 to invoke the Insurrection Act as demonstrators launched into their fourth day of protesting police brutality while being teargassed by police. “I won’t fan the flames of hate; I will seek to heal racial wounds,” Biden said. “A country is crying out for leadership. Leadership that can unite us, leadership that brings us together, leadership that can recognize the pain and deep grief of communities that have had a knee on their neck for a long time.”
— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) June 2, 2020
Biden invoked the words of Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis on May 25 after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for nine minutes. Floyd repeatedly told him that he couldn’t breathe, and Chauvin continued to hold him down even after he became unresponsive. He later died at the hospital, and Chauvin was arrested days later for third degree murder. “‘I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.’ George Floyd’s last words, but they didn’t die with him,” Biden said in his speech. “They’re still being heard echoing all across this nation. They speak to a nation where too often just the color of your skin puts your life at risk.”
Joe Biden: "I wish I could say that hate began with Donald Trump and will end with him. It didn't and it won't."
— ABC News (@ABC) June 2, 2020
Biden also rallied against Trump after police used tear gas and flash bombs to disperse peaceful protesters outside the White House so he could have a photo-op with a Bible outside St. John’s Episcopal Church. “The President held up a Bible at St. John’s church yesterday,” Biden said. “If he opened it instead of brandishing it, he could have learned something: That we are all called to love one another as we love ourselves. That’s hard work. But it’s the work of America.”
Joe Biden: "The country is crying out for leadership. Leadership that can unite us. Leadership that brings us together. Leadership that can recognize pain and deep grief of communities that have had a knee on their neck for a long time." pic.twitter.com/EJMVcKLN64
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) June 2, 2020
“We can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power, than in principle,” he added, questioning Trump’s motives in calling for the Insurrection Act of 1807. The law empowers the president to deploy military troops in the United States in instances of civil disorder, insurrection and rebellion. It has only been invoked 14 times since 1808, most recently in 1992 amid the LA Rodney King riots. “Serving the passion of his base, rather than the needs of the people in his care. For that’s what the presidency is: the duty to care.”
Biden went on to condemn Trump for his horrifying tweets about protesters, including his “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” line, which Biden mentioned had roots in the civil rights movement. The line was uttered by Miami police chief Walter Headley in 1967, during a hearing about crime in the city. It was also used by segregationist Eugene “Bull” Connor and segregationist presidential candidate George Wallace in 1968. Trump’s tweets were flagged by Twitter for “glorifying violence.”
Trump “might also want to open the US Constitution once in a while. If he did, he’d find a thing called the First Amendment… the right of the people peaceably to assemble,” Biden said. “That’s America… not using the American military to move against the American people.” Biden’s speech in Philadelphia was his first non-virtual event in months amid the coronavirus pandemic. He took a knee in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement before approaching the dais.
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