Biden: George Floyd's death should be 'wake-up call for our nation'

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Biden focused on healing racial divisions in his Tuesday remarks, in contrast to the threats Donald Trump directed at protesters Monday night.

Joe Biden called for an "era of action to reverse systemic racism, with long overdue and concrete changes" on Tuesday, a day after Donald Trump threatened to use the military to shut down protests.

Biden, speaking in Philadelphia, focused his remarks on the death of George Floyd — an unarmed black man who died of asphyxiation when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his throat for more than 8 minutes — as a "wake-up call for our nation all of us."

"'I can't breathe. I can't breathe.' George Floyd's last words. But they didn't die with him. They're still being heard. They're 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 Americans have filed for unemployment — with a disproportionate number of these deaths and job losses concentrated in the black and minority communities."

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Biden said that millions of people of color "are saying to themselves, 'I can't breathe'" on a daily basis.

Noting that "I can't breathe" were also the final words uttered by Eric Garner, another unarmed black man who in 2014 was killed by a white police officer, Biden called for America "to listen to those words, to try to understand them, to respond to them, and respond with action."

He called for "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," and promised that as president, he would not "traffic in fear and division," would never "fan the flames of hate," and will "seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued this country, not use them for political gain."

The speech was a stark contrast with what Trump said Monday night. Just before using tear gas and violence to clear peaceful protesters and clergy members out of Lafayette Square to enable a photo opportunity, he spoke in the Rose Garden about national protests against police violence.

After briefly asserting that "All Americans were rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd. My administration is fully committed that, for George and his family, justice will be served. He will not have died in vain," Trump focused the rest of his speech on attacking and threatening the protesters.

"[W]e cannot allow the righteous cries and peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob," he claimed. "The biggest victims of the rioting are peace-loving citizens in our poorest communities, and as their President, I will fight to keep them safe. I will fight to protect you. I am your President of law and order, and an ally of all peaceful protesters."

Trump then proceeded to accuse "professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, Antifa, and others" of gripping the nation with "domestic terror" and to blame "state and local governments" for failure to "take necessary action to safeguard their residents." He promised to use military force to end "lawlessness" in cities around the country.

He said nothing about addressing the problems of police brutality and racism.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.